25 scientific ways your childhood influences your success as an adult

Young bill gatesScrapeTVA young Bill Gates.

From the biological side of things to how we’re nurtured, a lot of what goes on during childhood influences how we turn out as adults.

And while there isn’t a set recipe for ensuring achievement and happiness in adulthood, psychology research has pointed to a handful of factors from childhood that can predict success.

Here’s some of what we know about how your childhood influences your success as an adult:

If you're sexually abused as a child, you're at higher risk of being obese as an adult.

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Several studies have shown a correlation between sexual abuse -- and other traumatic childhood experiences -- and eating disorders.

For women, a 2007 study showed that childhood sexual abuse raised the risk of obesity by 27% compared with women who were never sexually abused.

For men, a 2009 study showed that experiencing sexual abuse as a child raised the risk of obesity by 66% compared with males who never experienced sexual abuse.

The higher your parents' income, the higher your SAT scores.


According to Stanford University researcher Sean Reardon, the achievement gap between high- and low-income families 'is roughly 30% to 40% larger among children born in 2001 than among those born 25 years earlier.'

As 'Drive' author Dan Pink has noted, the higher the income for the parents, the higher the SAT scores for the kids.

'Absent comprehensive and expensive interventions, socioeconomic status is what drives much of educational attainment and performance,' he wrote.

If you grow up poor, your working memory could suffer.


People who grow up in lower socioeconomic classes end up with a lower working memory -- or ability to hold multiple objects in their minds -- in adulthood, suggests a University of Oregon study.

If you watch lots of violent TV, you're more likely to be an aggressive grown-up.

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According to a 15-year study, children model their behaviours after violent scenes where the perpetrators are rewarded for violence. For example, if a child watches a detective who's rewarded for bringing a murderer to justice after a violent clash, it will result in more pushing, grabbing, and shoving from the child -- even after he or she has grown up.

If you're abused as a child, your memory and emotional control could suffer as an adult.

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Neuroscientific research shows that people who experienced childhood abuse have worse memories and less control over their emotions.

According to a study out of Harvard published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, being sexually or emotionally abused as a child can stunt the development of three key areas of the hippocampus that control memory and the regulation of emotion.

Children who have good self-control early on are more likely to be well-functioning adults.


Children who have good self-control early in life are more likely to grow into healthy, financially secure, and trouble-free adults than those with poor self-discipline, according to a 32-year study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

'Parents should forget about their children's self-esteem and concentrate in instilling self-control,' self-control expert Roy Baumeister, PhD, professor of psychology at Florida State University in Tallahassee, told WebMD.

When your parents pay attention to you, you have healthier relationships and greater academic success in your 30s


A 2014 study of 243 people born into poverty found that children who received 'sensitive caregiving' in their first three years not only did better in academic tests in childhood, but had healthier relationships and greater academic attainment in their 30s.

As reported on PsyBlog, parents who are sensitive caregivers 'respond to their child's signals promptly and appropriately' and 'provide a secure base' for children to explore the world.

'This suggests that investments in early parent-child relationships may result in long-term returns that accumulate across individuals' lives,' coauthor and University of Minnesota psychologist Lee Raby said in an interview.

When mothers take maternity leave their children are more likely to be successfully as adults.

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Research out of The Institute for the Study of Labour (IZA) in Bonn indicates higher education, IQ, and income levels in adulthood for children of mothers who used maternity leave -- the biggest effect comes for children from lower-educated households. The researchers cited this as a significant discussion for US policymakers to have, as paid maternity leave could reduce the existing gap in education and income in the US.

If you experience maltreatment as a child, you're twice as likely to be depressed now.

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A King's College London study of 26,000 people found that if you experienced various forms of maltreatment, you're 2.27 times more likely to have recurrent episodes of depression.

The maltreatments, as per the Guardian's report:

• rejecting interaction from a mother

• harsh discipline reported by a parent

• unstable primary caregiver arrangement throughout childhood

• self-reports of harsh physical or sexual maltreatment

That must play in a role in the startling facts about depression in the US: 1 in 10 Americans have it.

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