Bad childhood linked to worse midlife learning and memory

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In a study from the University of Turku, scientists found that cumulative adverse psychosocial factors in childhood are linked to worse midlife learning and memory, and specifically a child’s self-regulation and social adjustment.

Along with the aging population, the prevalence of cognitive deficits is growing.

Thus, revealing the role of various exposures beginning from childhood is important in order to bring tools for cognitive health promotion.

An adverse psychosocial environment in childhood may harm cognitive development, but the associations for adulthood cognitive function remain obscure.

In the study, the team measured people’s cognitive performance at the age of 34–49 years.

Of more than 2,000 participants with cognitive function data, 1,191 also had complete data on childhood psychosocial factors from childhood.

The results suggest that the accumulation of negative psychosocial factors in childhood may associate with poorer cognitive function in midlife.

Specifically, poor self-regulatory behavior and social adjustment in childhood are associated with poorer learning ability and memory approximately 30 years later.

The results of the study can be leveraged to develop targeted interventions directed toward those families with cumulative adverse psychosocial factors.

Interventions towards promoting a better psychosocial environment in childhood might have carry-over associations on cognitive function and thus be reflected also in future generations via parenting attitudes.

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The study was conducted by Amanda Nurmi et al and published in Neuropsychology.

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