A longitudinal study (i.e. a study that is observational and carried out over a period of time, sometimes many years) carried out by Morales-Muñoz et al. The study involved just under 14,000 children all of whom were of relatively similar age (born between April 1991 and December 1992).
One of its key findings was that children aged eight years who showed signs of cognitive difficulties (specifically, difficulties with sustaining attention) were at increased risk of developing borderline personality disorder (BPD) – like symptoms by the time they reached the age of eleven or twelve years (it is important to note the phrase BPD-like symptoms as opposed to symptoms of BPD (see my previously published article: Can Children Be Diagnosed With BPD?).
Morales-Muñoz stated that this finding suggested that tackling children’s cognitive difficulties early in life may be an important strategy in relation to preventing mental health problems in later life.
Indeed, other links were found to exist between early life cognitive problems and the development of psychiatric issues later in life. These included:
- children who had difficulties in relation to inhibition at 8 years old were at increased risk of experiencing psychotic episodes at the age of 17-18 years.
- children who had difficulties concerning their working memory (working memory can hold small amounts of information on a temporary basis and is of vital importance to reasoning ability and decision-making ability) at the age of ten years were at increased risk of experiencing hypomania at the age of of 22-23
- children aged eight years who had difficulties with sustaining attention were (as well being at increased risk of developing borderline personality disorder – like symptoms at the age of eleven or twelve years, as already referred to above) at increased risk of developing depression at the age of 17-18 years. Lack of sustained attention is also a feature of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and some researchers have suggested that there is a link between BPD and ADHD. Indeed, betrayal trauma is believed to contribute to both BPD and ADHD, as is childhood trauma in general. It has further been suggested that some individuals diagnosed with ADHD would be more accurately diagnosed with complex PTSD.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)
Longitudinal Associations between Cognitive deficits in childhood and psychopathology in adolescence and young adulthood’ – Isabel Morales-Muñoz, Rachel Upthegrove, Pavan K Mallikarjun, Matthew R Broome and Steven Marwaha is published in JAMA Network Open.