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Emotional trauma may hurt toddlers' later learning

author:Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health,

Emotional trauma may hurt toddlers' later learning


A recent study in the United States has shown that emotional trauma such as abuse or witnessing domestic abuse may

inhibit children?s intellectual ability. The research showed that this is more damaging when it occurs in the first two years

of their life.

The U.S. study included 206 children whose intellectual development was assessed when they were aged 2, about 5 and 8

years old. The researchers also determined whether children suffered neglect; physical, sexual or emotional abuse; or

witnessed domestic violence against their mother.

More than one in three (37 percent) of the children had suffered abuse or witnessed violence by about age 5. This occurred

before age 2 in about 5 percent of children, during preschool (24 to 64 months) in 13 percent of children and during both

periods in 19 percent of the children.

The study, which found an association between witnessing violence and IQ but did not prove cause-and-effect, was published

online April 2 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

"The results suggest that [maltreatment and witnessing domestic violence] in early childhood, particularly during the first two

years, has significant and enduring effects on cognitive development, even after adjusting for [other risk factors]," wrote

researchers led by Michelle Bosquet Enlow, at Children's Hospital Boston.

Even after accounting for other factors that could influence IQ, such as socioeconomic status, mother's IQ and birth

complications, children who had witnessed or experienced violence had IQ scores that were more than 7 points

lower than kids not subjected to mistreatment.

The researchers noted that the brain develops most rapidly during the early years of a child's life.

"Because early brain organization frames later neurological development, changes in early development may have lifelong

consequences," they wrote.

(SOURCE: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, news release, April 2, 2012) 2012