Tuesday, January 05, 2016

A multidimensional approach linking early experiences to successful aging


Public Release: 16-Dec-2015
Beyond early adversity: A multidimensional approach linking early experiences to successful aging
American Psychological Association

Adverse childhood experiences such as poverty, abuse and neglect have been linked to poor mental and physical health outcomes in adulthood. However, characterizing early experiences only in terms of extreme stressors fails to capture the full spectrum of childhood for most people. In fact, a recent study by Lee et al. (2015) in Psychology and Aging suggests that looking at early adversity only tells part of the story. Using a novel person-centered approach, the authors reported three prototypic patterns based on recalled positive and negative childhood experiences across multiple domains, labeled as cherished (nurturing environment with some losses), harshly disciplined (potentially abusive parental discipline and non-normative stressors, such as sexual molestation) and ordinary (few stressors and low parental attention). Compared with the other groups, cherished children were better able to form and maintain supportive relationships in midlife, which in turn were related to greater life satisfaction, positive mood, feelings of competence and more positive relations in older ages. A key take-home message is that it is not a lack of early adversity per se, but dealing with stressors in the context of strong familial and external support, which allows children to learn healthy ways of coping with hardship and garnering support, thus promoting well-being across the lifespan.


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