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Childhood trauma exposure, age and self-compassion as predictors of later-life symptoms of depression and anxiety in American Indian adults.

BACKGROUND: Although previous research has established a relationship between childhood trauma and later-life anxiety and depression symptoms in American Indian samples, less is known about protective factors that may reduce the strength of this relationship.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of the present study was to investigate in a sample of American Indian adults, whether age moderates the relationship between self-compassion and poor mental health associated with childhood trauma.

PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING: Seven hundred and twenty-nine self-identifying American Indian adults (age 18-95) residing in the United States completed an online survey.

METHOD: All participants were self-identifying American Indian adults recruited via Qualtrics, which utilized targeted recruiting through managed research panels. Participants self-reported age, gender, income, and completed measures of self-compassion, childhood trauma, and symptoms of anxiety and depression.

RESULTS: Lower self-compassion predicted higher levels of both anxiety symptoms (β = -2.69, R2 change = 0.24, t(718) = -15.92, p < .001) and depression symptoms (β = -2.23, R2 change = 0.26, t(718) = -16.30, p < .001). In line with our hypothesis, there was a significant three-way interaction between age, childhood trauma exposure and self-compassion in predicting later-life symptoms of anxiety (β = -0.68, t(712) = -3.57, p < .001, R2 change = 0.01) and depression (β = -0.54, t(712) = -3.32, p = .001, R2 change = 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS: The findings indicate that for older American Indian adults, self-compassion may be a particularly promising protective factor for symptoms of depression for those who have experienced high levels of childhood trauma, and for symptoms of anxiety regardless of childhood trauma exposure.

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