Adverse Childhood Experiences, Marital History, and Midlife Health

Kristi Williams , The Ohio State University
Brian K. Finch, University of Southern California

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have enduring consequences for health and well-being throughout the life course. We draw on recent evidence that ACEs undermine self-regulation, trust, and the formation of secure intimate ties to posit that ACEs decrease the probability of marriage and increase risk of divorce. Analysis of 35 years of panel data (NLSY79) (n = 5,784) supports the latter hypothesis among white but not black men and women. Importantly, for white women, a substantial portion of the well-established link between divorce and later life health is partly spurious – explained by the joint effect of ACEs on both marital history and later life health. Controlling for ACEs reduces the estimated effect of divorce on health at age 50 by 25% for white women and 18% for white men. Health differences between the never-married and those in their first marriage at age 50 are not explained by ACEs.

See paper

 Presented in Session 223. Flash Session: Families and Health