BackgroundTo examine whether Borderline Intellectual Functioning (BIF) and Adverse Childhood Experiences independently predict adult psychiatric morbidity.MethodsWe performed a secondary analysis of longitudinal data derived from the 1970 British Birth Cohort Study to examine whether BIF and Adverse Childhood Experiences independently predict adult mental distress as measured by the Malaise Inventory. Factor analysis was used to derive a proxy measure of IQ from cognitive testing at age 10 or 5. Variables that could be indicators of exposure to Adverse Childhood Experiences were identified and grouped into health related and socio-economic related adversity.ResultsChildren with BIF were significantly more likely than their peers to have been exposed to Adverse Childhood Experiences (BIF mean 5.90, non-BIF mean 3.19; Mann-Whitney z = 31.74, p < 0.001). As adults, participants with BIF were significantly more likely to score above the cut-off on the Malaise Inventory. We found statistically significant relationships between the number of socio-economic Adverse Childhood Experiences and poorer adult psychiatric morbidity (r range 0.104–0.141, all p < 001). At all ages the indirect mediating effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences were significantly related to adult psychiatric morbidity.ConclusionsThe relationship between BIF and adult psychiatric morbidity appears to be partially mediated by exposure to Adverse Childhood Experiences. Where possible, targeting Adverse Childhood Experiences through early detection, prevention and interventions may improve psychiatric morbidity in this population group.