Interpersonal stress mediates the relationship between childhood trauma and depressive symptoms: Findings from two culturally different samples

Hong Wang Fung*, Stanley Kam Ki Lam, Wai Tong Chien, Suet Lin Hung, Henry Wai Hang Ling, Vincent Wan Ping Lee, Edward K. S. Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)
    88 Downloads (Pure)


    Objective: Childhood trauma is associated with adulthood depressive symptoms, but very few studies explored potential social and interpersonal mediators behind this association. This study made the first attempt to test the potential mediating effects of interpersonal stress in the associations between childhood betrayal and non-betrayal trauma and depressive symptoms. 

    Method: We analyzed data in a sample of English-speaking adults from diverse backgrounds (from 19 different countries, mainly from Western countries) (N = 468). We then replicated and compared the results with those in another convenience sample of Chinese-speaking younger adults with different cultural backgrounds and mental health status (N = 205). 

    Results: The results in both samples indicated that (1) childhood betrayal trauma had a stronger relationship with depressive symptoms than childhood non-betrayal trauma and that (2) interpersonal stress was a significant mediator in the relationship between childhood betrayal trauma and depressive symptoms, even when childhood non-betrayal trauma was included as a covariate. The indirect effect of childhood non-betrayal trauma on depressive symptoms through interpersonal stress was not consistent in two samples. 

    Conclusions: Our findings point to the importance of taking social and interpersonal contexts into account when investigating, preventing and managing depression in trauma-exposed populations. Early social interventions such as family interventions, interpersonal skills training and building social resources may have the potential to change the trajectory of the development of mental health problems in trauma survivors.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1052-1061
    Number of pages10
    JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
    Issue number7
    Early online date28 Nov 2022
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Psychiatry and Mental health

    User-Defined Keywords

    • Childhood trauma
    • depression
    • interpersonal stress
    • mental health
    • public health


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