ERIC Number: EJ1144954
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017-Jul
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
Early Adversity and Learning: Implications for Typical and Atypical Behavioral Development
Hanson, Jamie L.; van den Bos, Wouter; Roeber, Barbara J.; Rudolph, Karen D.; Davidson, Richard J.; Pollak, Seth D.
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, v58 n7 p770-778 Jul 2017
Background: Children who experience early adversity often develop emotion regulatory problems, but little is known about the mechanisms that mediate this relation. We tested whether general associative learning processes contribute to associations between adversity, in the form of child maltreatment, and negative behavioral outcomes. Methods: Eighty-one participants between 12 and 17 years of age were recruited for this study and completed a probabilistic learning Task. Forty-one of these participants had been exposed to physical abuse, a form of early adversity. Forty additional participants without any known history of maltreatment served as a comparison group. All participants (and their parents) also completed portions of the Youth Life Stress Interview to understand adolescent's behavior. We calculated measures of associative learning, and also constructed mathematical models of learning. Results: We found that adolescents exposed to high levels of adversity early in their lives had lower levels of associative learning than comparison adolescents. In addition, we found that impaired associative learning partially explained the higher levels of behavioral problems among youth who suffered early adversity. Using mathematical models, we also found that two components of learning were specifically affected in children exposed to adversity: choice variability and biases in their beliefs about the likelihood of rewards in the environment. Conclusions: Participants who had been exposed to early adversity were less able than their peers to correctly learn which stimuli were likely to result in reward, even after repeated feedback. These individuals also used information about known rewards in their environments less often. In addition, individuals exposed to adversity made decisions early in the learning process as if rewards were less consistent and occurred more at random. These data suggest one mechanism through which early life experience shapes behavioral development.
Descriptors: At Risk Persons, Child Abuse, Child Behavior, Behavior Problems, Emotional Response, Associative Learning, Preadolescents, Adolescents, Comparative Analysis, Beliefs, Rewards, Decision Making, Experience, Child Development
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: National Institute of Mental Health (DHHS/NIH); National Institute on Drug Abuse (DHHS/PHS); Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) (NIH)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: MH61285|MH68858|P50MH84051|MH43454|DA028087|P30HD03352