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The body remembers: Adolescent conflict struggles predict adult interleukin-6 levels

  • Joseph P. Allen (a1), Emily L. Loeb (a1), Joseph S. Tan (a1), Rachel K. Narr (a1) and Bert N. Uchino (a2)...

Struggles managing conflict and hostility in adolescent social relationships were examined as long-term predictors of immune-mediated inflammation in adulthood that has been linked to long-term health outcomes. Circulating levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), a marker of immune system dysfunction when chronically elevated, were assessed at age 28 in a community sample of 127 individuals followed via multiple methods and reporters from ages 13 to 28. Adult serum IL-6 levels were predicted across periods as long as 15 years by adolescents’ inability to defuse peer aggression and poor peer-rated conflict resolution skills, and by independently observed romantic partner hostility in late adolescence. Adult relationship difficulties also predicted higher IL-6 levels but did not mediate predictions from adolescent-era conflict struggles. Predictions were also not mediated by adult trait hostility or aggressive behavior, suggesting the unique role of struggles with conflict and hostility from others during adolescence. The implications for understanding the import of adolescent peer relationships for life span physical health outcomes are considered.

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Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Joseph P. Allen, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, PO Box 400400, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4400; E-mail:
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This study was supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Mental Health (9R01 HD058305-16A1 and R01-MH58066).

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Development and Psychopathology
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