The Impact of Trauma History and Family of Origin Relationships on Health Behaviors and Relationships in Adulthood

Jessica Cless and Hans St. Eloi Cadely 

Jessica Cless: Assistant Professor Human Development and Family Science
Hans Saint-Eloi Cadely
Hans Saint-Eloi Cadely: Associate Professor, Developmental Science Grad Program Director, Human Development and Family Science







Beyond mental health outcomes, research has demonstrated a strong link between the incidence of traumatic stress and poor physical health outcomes. To name a few, traumatic stress can have a negative impact on sleep (Biggs et al., 2020), obesity and metabolic health (Rasmusson et al., 2010), and exercise (Smith-Marek et al., 2018; Winning et al, 2017). These impacts represent a burden not only to the individual, but also to larger systems of care. For those who experience childhood trauma, for example, the lifetime cost of recovery related care for an individual is $210,012, exceeding the cost of Type II Diabetes ($181,000; Centers for Disease Control, 2012). Research establishing these links has largely been correlational. In order to help individuals who have experienced trauma and to reduce associated health care costs, a deeper understanding is needed to understand potential causal links between traumatic stress and later life health behaviors.

The purpose is to investigate underlying mechanisms of how history of trauma and family of origin relationships relate to health and relationship behaviors in adulthood. Jessica Cless will extend existing literature by testing how family of origin factors (e.g., family cohesion, quality of relationships) relates to positive coping in response to traumatic stress. Both individual and family member factors will be tested to determine if actor/partner effects are related to health and relationship outcomes.

Findings from this study will be used to apply for larger funding sources that can be used to sustain this research over time. Specifically, funds will be applied to either an R21 Grant Application to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) or other appropriate federal funding opportunities as they become available. This project will be a collaboration between Dr. Jessica Cless (Principal Investigator) and Dr. Hans Saint-Eloi Cadely (Co-Investigator). Both investigators bring subject matter expertise to the project (Dr. Cless: traumatic stress, Dr. Saint-Eloi Cadely: relationships).