Early Adversity Detrimental to Cognitive Functioning

Divorce, poor material home conditions, and poor maternal management all share one thing: adversity for the child in that home. In a study done by M. Richards and M. E. J. Wadsworth, they found that such adversities at a young age can cause significant problems for cognitive functioning in both the short and long term. The impact on cognitive functioning was seen through less than average measurements of verbal ability, memory, and speed of concentration that continued on to midlife. Adversity at a young age was also linked to lower educational achievement on top of the lower cognitive abilities and cognitive growth. While this study does show cause for concern, it also faces limitations, such as the disproportionate loss to follow-up of those with lower cognitive ability. This is a severe limitation not because it could prove the study inaccurate, but based on the research given it is a cause for concern that they may have underestimated the effects of adversity later in life. This study has proven to us the importance of reducing adversity in young children and the depths in which the adversity can cause long-lasting effects on an individual. With more research we can find ways of reducing the impact adversity has on an individual’s cognitive abilities.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1719683/pdf/v089p00922.pdf

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10 thoughts on “Early Adversity Detrimental to Cognitive Functioning”

  1. I found an article that talks about how emotions are often view on a bipolar spectrum of negative and positive, and this leads to many studies discussing only the negative outcomes of negative events, and very few studies on if there are any positive outcomes. The article states that simply because an event in overtly negative, it does not mean that all emotions or future experiences surrounding such an event will be negative. I found this very interesting. Like how the superheros always have to overcome adversity to become better people or to save the world! (haha)

    https://www.researchgate.net/profile/John_Cacioppo/publication/265843103_Turning_adversity_to_advantage_on_the_virtues_of_the_coactivation_of_positive_and_negative_emotions/links/541c89ae0cf203f155b918d4.pdf

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    1. Thanks for the feedback! This reminds me of the research I did into PTSD. Apparently, individuals who are extroverts are more likely to grow and make positive advancements from negative or traumatic experiences. It’s interesting to see how different characteristics can have such an impact on how one handles adversity.

      The PTSD Workbook by Mary Beth Williams, Soili Poijula

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  2. In a study I found they looked at 26 different adversities in childhood such as parental psychopathologies, losses and interpersonal trauma and found that they were consistently related to mood disorders, addictions, anxiety disorders and the tendency to act out. Because they looked at so many adversities, they found clustering of these adversities and that they were additive and had multiplicative effects on the probability of a disorder. Ultimately leading to the finding that childhood adversities have an impact on the onset of disorders even after childhood.

    Kessler, R. C., Davis, C. G., & Kendler, K. S. (1997). Childhood adversity and adult psychiatric disorder in the US National Comorbidity Survey. Psychological medicine, 27(05), 1101-1119.

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    1. That is very interesting, I never thought to look at the disorders that were linked with adversity. It does make sense though when I think about it. This truly shows the importance of early intervention into the childhood adversities.

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  3. Interesting topic as it can be relatable as all of us go through adversity in our lives. Children gave found to be able to overcome adversity better when they have a good relationship with a caring and competent adult! Overcoming these adversities can actually lead to beneficial things such as better learning and problem solving and have better efficacy valued by themselves. So although adversity can be quite detrimental to a child’s development if they overcome their adversity it can lead to good things.

    Ann S. Masten, K. M. (1990). Resilience and development: Contributions from the study of children who overcome adversity. development and psychology, 425-444.

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    1. That is an excellent point! One thing important to examine is the fact that children have more opportunities to overcome adversity due to the abundance of resources between school, home, and other programs the child may be involved in. Children often are handed the resources adults have to go out and find which does improve their ability to overcome adversity. Unfortunately, the children who don’t have a good relationship with a caring, competent adult are put in a very high-risk spot where it can be detrimental. I think your comment can be an important reminder for those who have or work with kids to try and build these connections with children. If we can intervene early enough, we could help promote healthier, more positive outcomes to early adversity.

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  4. Interesting topic as it can be relatable as all of us go through adversity in our lives. Children gave found to be able to overcome adversity better when they have a good relationship with a caring and competent adult! Overcoming these adversities can actually lead to beneficial things such as better learning and problem solving and have better efficacy valued by themselves. So although adversity can be quite detrimental to a child’s development if they overcome their adversity it can lead to good things.

    Ann S. Masten, K. M. (1990). Resilience and development: Contributions from the study of children who overcome adversity. development and psychology, 425-444.

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  5. Hello Eliza. Great topic choice by the way. The reason I liked it is because I think we can all relate to it, I myself am a by product of someone who’s family went though a divorce at a young age. The study I looked at talks about how science shows that providing stable, responsive, nurturing relationships in the earliest years of life can prevent or even reverse the damaging effects of early life stress, with lifelong benefits for learning, behavior, and health.

    http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/inbrief-the-impact-of-early-adversity-on-childrens-development/

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  6. This is an excellent point, the environment and personal relationships do play a significant role in overcoming adversity. I will definitely look into this more for future posts.

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  7. Keeping our eyes on reality, adverse circumstances for children include family problems of maltreatment, abuse, abandonment, violence and divorce (social breakdown) as well as larger social stressors such as poverty, low quality of food, limited access to fresh water and clean air, the absence of good education and employment opportunities as well as exposure to crime, social conflicts, racial conflicts, gender conflicts, and war.

    Politicians, economists, educators, and others such as people in business, lack social empathy and have a limited understanding of the true significance of human rights. They need to be assisted to learn how adversity influences the quality of life, not only of individuals and families but also of populations and the evident consequences that are detrimental to the country.

    You discussed how adversity impacts children. But what about the other side of the coin?
    What happens in the long term to children that are poorly parented/socialized and grow up without learning to have personal self boundaries or awareness of the personal boundaries of others? What occurs if a child is made to grow up without social restrictions, without ever experiencing adversity such as being hungry, and having whatever they need and want provided immediately? Do they show a healthy adulthood?
    Are they happy individuals?

    Humans require both negative and positive stimulus to learn how to successfully live out the limited human life span.
    Which type of stimulus is more important for successful individual human development?
    How come some children overcome adversity and others do not?
    What does resilience in the face of early adversity imply? Is it inherited or learned?

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