Interactions between a mother and her child have to cognitive outcomes in childhood, but little work has looked at farther-reaching effects. In a Journal of Marriage & Family study that examined data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study; more positive mother-child interactions during the first 16 years of life predicted higher education in adulthood; which predicted less decline in episodic memory, or the memory of autobiographical events.
Additionally, more positive mother-child interactions with better episodic memory through higher marital satisfaction. The results provide evidence for the broad and enduring effects of early life maternal relationships on later life developmental processes. “The findings highlight the importance of taking a more integrative and lifespan perspective to assess how early life experiences affect socioemotional and cognitive development;” the authors wrote.
Episodic memory in adulthood
The primary goal of the current study was to investigate the life course effects of PMCI and NMCI on episodic memory in adulthood through academic competence; social competence, and depressive symptoms. They found indirect effects of PMCI on T2 memory and memory change through educational attainment. Specifically, more PMCI during the first 16 years of life predicted higher education in adulthood, which predicted less decline in memory over time.
In addition, we found that more PMCI with better T2 memory through higher marital satisfaction. Contrasting with our hypotheses, they found no indirect effects of NMCI on episodic memory through psychosocial pathways. After accounting for indirect pathways; more PMCI and more NMCI were still each directly associated with better T2 memory, but not memory change. These results provide evidence for the broad and enduring effects of early-life maternal relationships on later life developmental processes.
Important for educational outcomes
Educational attainment was to mediate the relationship between PMCI and episodic memory, but not NMCI. Thus, positive maternal behaviors may more important for educational outcomes than negative maternal behaviors. Positive maternal behaviors may have a beneficial impact on children’s regular-tory abilities; which contribute to their success in school. Regulatory behaviors are important skills that help to promote appropriate classroom behavior.
In conclusion, both PMCI and NMCI appear to have enduring effects on longitudinal episodic memory in older adulthood. This link between PMCI; longitudinal episodic memory is partially explained by higher academic competence and greater marital satisfaction. These findings highlight the importance of examining both positive and negative interactions in childhood on later life outcomes.
Furthermore, these findings highlight the importance of taking a life course perspective in assessing how early-life social outcomes may influence the psychosocial resources available in adulthood that help to preserve episodic memory across the adult lifespan.