U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Childhood Maltreatment and Anhedonic Symptoms: Test of a Dual-risk Model in Emerging Adults

NCJ Number
Journal of Interpersonal Violence Dated: 2021
Date Published

Since anhedonia, defined as deficits in positive affect and approach related behaviors, remains an understudied trauma response, the current study sought to address this gap in the literature by testing a theoretical model that highlights two transdiagnostic pathways leading to anhedonic responses in emerging adults attending college.


Since anhedonic responses to interpersonal violence are associated with a more severe course of psychopathology that is more difficult to treat, an increased focus on risk factors for anhedonia is necessary. The current study examined how childhood maltreatment subtypes (a) uniquely associated with depressive and post-traumatic stress (PTS) manifestations of anhedonia and (b) how temperament (i.e., anticipatory positive affect) and distress (i.e., negative mood) explain these relations. At baseline, a racially diverse sample of 462 emerging adults (AgeMean = 19.45; 75.5 percent female; 45.5 percent White) completed self-report forms on childhood abuse and neglect, anticipatory positive affect, negative mood, and anhedonia. Individuals completed measures of temperament and psychological distress again 6 weeks and 12 weeks later. Latent growth curve models were used to test this model. Consistent with hypotheses, deficits in anticipatory positive affect uniquely explained the relation between neglect and depressive/PTS anhedonic symptoms. Meanwhile, negative mood mediated the relation between abuse and both forms of anhedonia. These findings support the theory that two separate risk pathways lead to anhedonia. Support for the proposed model suggests that distinguishing between pathways for anhedonic responses may be the key to a more targeted, transdiagnostic, trauma-informed approach for treating and preventing these deleterious, treatment-resistant, internalizing symptoms. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2021