Objectives: Previous research suggests that the quality of early family relationships may moderate the association between lower socioeconomic status (SES) and cardiovascular and other health outcomes. In this study, we investigated how implicit measures of early childhood environments (implicit anger, fear, or warmth about one's family) interacted with early life SES to predict metabolic outcomes in a sample of healthy adolescents.
Method: Adolescents (N = 259) age 13 to 16 participated with 1 parent. Implicit family affect was measured with a computer-based implicit affect assessment tool. Early life SES was indexed by home crowding (e.g., number of people per bedroom) during the first 5 years of life. Metabolic indicators included resting blood pressure, total cholesterol, glycosylated hemoglobin, and waist circumference.
Results: Early life SES significantly interacted with implicit negative family affect in resting systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure levels, such that among those participants with higher early life SES, as implicit negative family affect increased, resting blood pressure also increased. Similarly, early life SES interacted with implicit family warmth to predict total cholesterol levels, such that among those participants with higher early life SES, as implicit family warmth decreased, total cholesterol increased. These patterns were not observed with current SES or with explicit measures of family relationships.
Conclusions: These findings provide evidence that implicit family affect moderates the association between early life SES and adolescent metabolic outcomes in a way that suggests that implicit family affect may be more relevant among higher SES adolescents. The utility of implicit psychosocial measures in cardiovascular health studies, particularly for higher SES samples, is discussed.
Bibliographical noteFunded by: National Institutes of Health.
- Early life socioeconomic status
- Family environment
- Implicit affect
- Metabolic outcomes