Poster B25, Sunday, March 25, 8:00-10:00 am, Exhibit Hall C
The impact of deprivation and threatening experiences on behavior in early childhood
Laura Machlin1, Adam B. Miller1, Jenna Snyder2, Katie A. McLaughlin3, Margaret A. Sheridan1; 1University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2Cooper Medical School, 3University of Washington
Early adversity is strongly associated with risk for psychopathology (McLaughlin et al., 2012). Deprivation, defined as the absence of expected cognitive and social inputs, is associated with lower performance on complex cognitive tasks (Sheridan et al., 2017). Threatening experiences, defined as the presence of atypical traumatic learning experiences, are associated with impaired fear learning processes (Sheridan et al., 2017). Depriving and threatening experiences have not previously been studied together in early childhood when experience profoundly impacts neural development. The present study examines how depriving and threatening experiences are associated with behavioral performance in early childhood. Children 4-7 years old (N=56) completed interviews assessing threatening experiences (Violence Exposure Scale for Children-Revised), deprivation (Multidimensional Neglectful Behavior Scale), and behavioral tasks assessing working memory and cognitive control. Children also completed a fear conditioning and extinction paradigm. Parents completed questionnaires assessing deprivation (Home Screening Questionnaire) and threat (UCLA PTSD Reaction Index). Children with high self-reported deprivation had significantly worse cognitive control (B=.18, t=2.17, p<.05) and working memory (B=-.43, t=-2.48, p<.05) as indexed by reaction time and accuracy respectively. Parent-reported threat was significantly associated with greater attentional bias towards threat-related cues during a fear conditioning paradigm as indexed by behavioral responses (B=.32, t=2.89, p<.01). All analyses controlled for age, gender, IQ, and other experiences (deprivation or threat). Results suggest that deprivation results in impaired cognitive control and working memory while threatening experiences are associated with increased attention to threatening stimuli. Future work should examine physiological and neural mechanisms underlying behavioral changes associated with early adversity.
Topic Area: EXECUTIVE PROCESSES: Development & aging