Can a good childhood prevent this in adults?

Can a good childhood prevent this in adults?

Is there a relationship between positive childhood experiences and a reduction in poor adult mental health and depression?

In a recent study published in JAMA Pediatricsresearchers sought to determine just that.

They analyzed data from a survey of nearly 6,200 people age 18 and older. Questions focused on participants’ childhood and included inquiries like the following:

  • Were you able to talk to your family about your feelings?
  • Did you feel safe and protected by an adult in your home?
  • Did your family stand by you during hard times?

Those who reported having a positive experience had lower rates of mental health conditions and were more likely to be experiencing positive, supportive relationships in adulthood.

And the more positive experiences per participant, the better the outcome in adulthood. Those with more positive experiences had a more than 70% lower likelihood of experiencing poor mental health or depression in adult years. They were also three and a half times more likely to feel fully supported by individuals in their life as an adult.

The researchers say the results add to “the growing evidence that childhood experiences have profound and lifelong effects,” and urge adults to provide positive, nurturing environments for children as “society continues to address remediable causes of childhood adversities such as adverse childhood experiences.”

“With the growing rate of adverse childhood experiences that kids are exposed to today, it’s encouraging to see that research is examining resilience and protective factors,” says Dr. Kathleen Ares, a psychologist with Advocate Children’s Hospital. “While there are multi-faceted layers to trauma and mental health outcomes, this article highlights the importance of incorporating parents and family members into our work with children.”

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is the public affairs coordinator at Advocate Children's Hospital. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.