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Early life adversity, inflammation, and immune function: An initial test of adaptive response models of immunological programming
Development and Psychopathology  (IF4.151),  Pub Date : 2022-02-14, DOI: 10.1017/s095457942100170x
Katja Cunningham, Summer Mengelkoch, Jeffrey Gassen, Sarah E. Hill

Much research indicates that exposure to early life adversity (ELA) predicts chronic inflammatory activity, increasing one’s risk of developing diseases of aging later in life. Despite its costs, researchers have proposed that chronic inflammation may be favored in this context because it would help promote immunological vigilance in environments with an elevated risk of infection and injury. Although intuitively appealing, the assumption that exaggerated inflammatory activity predicts favorable immunological outcomes among those exposed to ELA has not been tested. Here, we seek to address this gap, examining the links between exposure to ELA, inflammation, and immune function. Consistent with others’ work, results revealed that those from low socioeconomic status (SES) childhood environments exhibited exaggerated unstimulated inflammatory activity relative to what was observed among those from higher SES childhood environments. Further, results revealed that – although levels of inflammation predicted the magnitude of immunological responses in those from higher SES backgrounds – for those who grew up in low SES environments, higher levels of inflammation were unrelated to the magnitude of immunological responses. Results suggest that exaggerated inflammatory activity in the context of ELA may not predict improved ability to manage acute immunological threats.