The importance of adverse childhood experiences for labour market trajectories over the life course: a longitudinal study

Claus D. Hansen*, Mette Jørgine Kirkeby, Kristian Gade Kjelmann, Johan Hviid Andersen, Rasmus Juul Møberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Transitioning from school to work is important in influencing people’s trajectories throughout their life course. This study investigated the extent to which adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) were associated with differences in labour market trajectories for young adults in the context of a Nordic child care regime with low levels of child poverty. Methods: Information on labour market participation, educational events, and public transfer records was recoded into seven state spaces for each month between ages 16 and 32 for a cohort of Danish adolescents born in a rural county in 1983 (N = 3373). Cluster analysis of the sequences using the optimal matching algorithm was used to identify groups with similar trajectories. Multinomial regression was used to assess the association between self-reported ACEs and cluster membership, taking gender and family of origin into account. Results: ‘In employment’ was the state space in which the young adults spent the most time over their early life courses (mean: 85 out of 204 months; 42%). Cluster analysis identified three clusters. Cluster 3 was most distinct, where the mean time ‘outside the labour market’ was 149 months (73%), and only 17 months (8%) were spent ‘in employment’. Cumulative ACEs increased the probability of being included in Cluster 3 (OR: 1.51). Experiencing parental divorce (OR: 3.05), witnessing a violent event (OR: 3.70), and being abused (OR: 5.64) were most strongly associated with Cluster 3 membership. Conclusions: Labour market trajectories among adolescents with a higher number of ACEs consisted of more time outside the labour market, compared to adolescents who had experienced fewer adversities. The lasting consequences of childhood adversity should be taken more into account in welfare policies, even in countries such as Denmark, with high social security levels and high-quality universal childcare.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2044
JournalB M C Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021. The Author(s).


  • Administrative data
  • Disability pension
  • Negative life events
  • School-to-work transition
  • Sequence analysis


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