Early-Life Adversity Tied to Poor Mental Health, Cognition in Later Childhood

Specific impacts seen on working memory and vocabulary

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MONDAY, Feb. 13, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Early-life adversity has lasting effects on mental health and cognitive abilities later in childhood, according to a study published online Feb. 8 in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Tochukwu Nweze, from University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and colleagues assessed how early-life adversity, mental health, and cognition affect later cognitive outcomes. The analysis included data from 13,287 children assessed at ages 3, 5, 7, 11, and 14 years.

The researchers found a significant total association between early-life adversity and poorer performance on working memory and vocabulary scores. A substantial portion of the association was mediated by current and previous mental health (working memory, 59 percent; vocabulary, 70 percent). Longitudinal modeling similarly showed that early-life adversity has an enduring adverse effect on mental health and cognitive performance. There were indirect associations between early-life adversity and working memory through baseline mental health at age 3 years and change in mental health across ages 3 to 11 years. In addition, baseline mental health at age 3 years and change in mental health across ages 3 to 14 years significantly and completely mediated the relationship between early-life adversity and vocabulary outcome.

"These findings have important potential clinical and educational implications, because they suggest that academic and cognitive resilience may be supported through early mental health interventions in vulnerable children," the authors write.

Abstract/Full Text

Lori Solomon

Lori Solomon

Published on February 13, 2023

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