Early fear of abandonment may harm adult health

A new study shows low socioeconomic status and fear of abandonment early in life can lead to poor health in adulthood—regardless of adult socioeconomic status.

“Ultimately, early childhood is a critical time for adult health, regardless of whether you move up the socioeconomic ladder as an adult.”

The study, reported in Annals of Behavioral Medicine, examines the self-reported measures of childhood socioeconomic status, attachment orientations (such as fear of abandonment or difficulty in forming relationships), stress, and adult health of 213 participants from 2005 to 2011.

The study found that people who were in the lowest 25 percent of the sample for socioeconomic status as children had 65 percent worse self-reported health as adults than people who were in the top 75 percent of the sample as children. The researchers note that this poor health later in life occurred regardless of adult socioeconomic status.

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“Low socioeconomic status places burdens on parents where they are less available to their kids at times,” says coauthor Chris Fagundes, an assistant professor of psychology at Rice University. “This can lead to the development of ‘attachment orientations’—which include fear of abandonment or difficulty in forming close relationships—that can compromise adult health.”

Fagundes says the study is one of the first to examine how these attachment issues link early adversity and adult health. He and coauthor Kyle Murdock, a postdoctoral research fellow in psychology, also found that a person’s biological capacity to regulate their emotions—including stress—had a correlation to overall health.

“If individuals are better at managing negative feelings and levels of stress, they are more likely to be healthy as adults,” Murdock says. “However, if they are not so good at managing emotions, they are more likely to be less healthy.”

Fagundes and Murdock hope the study will encourage further exploration of why low socioeconomic status during childhood is associated with an increased risk of experiencing health disparities in adulthood.

“Ultimately, early childhood is a critical time for adult health, regardless of whether you move up the socioeconomic ladder as an adult,” the authors conclude.

Source: Rice University

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Source: Futurity