Last week, we passed along several connections between trauma experienced in childhood (such physical abuse, sexual abuse, violence, and natural disaster) and mental health issues later on in life. However, there are plenty of more subtle childhood experiences and traits that have also been linked with adult behavioral and emotional difficulty. For example, mental health research from Concordia University suggests a link between stress during adolescence and mood issues, such as depression, in adulthood. Depression has been on the rise in recent years, affecting more people and affecting them at younger ages. This research underway at Concordia looks at whether a stressful home environment (particularly one in which parents are dealing with their own mental health issues) makes adolescents more likely to experience mental health concerns of their own. So far, this link is holding up, and the researchers plan to continue their work.
Another new study has found interesting trends among children who demonstrate fearless behavior, even as young as preschool age. Kids who exhibit fearlessness are highly social, but they also have higher rates of aggression and tend to lack empathy. While not a mental health concern in the traditional sense, this lack of empathy and openness to aggression may cause behavioral and social problems as the child grows, which may have mental health offshoots. Whether in counseling, at school, or at home, encouraging empathy development in fearless kids may help them not just put themselves at risk, but build strong and health social relationships as they age.
Finally, the work of a psychologist in the UK explores links between untreated ADHD and crime. Kids whose ADHD goes untreated (through counseling, therapy, and education efforts) may be less successful in school and therefore, more likely to rebel and assert themselves elsewhere. In each of these three studies, a statistical link alone does not guarantee that the child will develop these consequences. But it can be a helpful point of awareness, spurring parents and teachers to keep an eye out for signs that a child or teen could use some counselor or other help.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.