There is evidence to suggest that childhood deprivation is linked to impulsive behavior in adulthood. Neglect, abuse, or growing up in impoverished or unstable environments can all have long-term consequences for an individual’s development and behavior.
Researchers discovered a link between childhood deprivation and impulsive behavior, which can lead to addiction later in life. The findings, the result of six years of research, also discovered a new link between impulsivity, obesity, and the cost of living crisis. According to research, children who have experienced deprivation are more likely to make impulsive choices than those who have not, which can lead to addictions later in life.
‘Trait impulsivity,’ or the desire for instant gratification, has been linked to increased spending on food, particularly unhealthy, high-calorie foods. According to studies, children who experience poverty and food insecurity as children have a higher BMI as adults than those who do not.
Researchers from Aston University’s School of Psychology discovered a link between childhood deprivation and impulsive behavior, which can lead to addiction later in life. The findings, the result of six years of research, also discovered a new link between impulsivity, obesity, and the cost of living crisis.
These findings are concerning because impulsivity doesn’t just predict obesity. These findings tell us a lot about why people living in poorer areas tend to be unhealthier than people living in wealthy areas.Professor Tunney
Professor Richard Tunney, head of Aston University’s School of Psychology, published a study in Scientific Reports earlier this year showing that children who experience deprivation make more impulsive choices than children who do not.
The study compared 146 children, with an average age of eight, living in some of England’s most deprived areas to children living in some of the most affluent neighborhoods.
Children were given the option of taking home a small amount of money (say, £1) or receiving £10 per week, or even more a year later. How long a person is willing to wait for the larger amount of money can be used to calculate a ‘discount rate’ that shows how much the waiting time reduces the value of the money.
An impulsive person might prefer £1 now because the value of £10 in six months is ‘discounted’ to less than £1 right now. This means that, for them, the £10, is discounted by £9 over the six-month wait. A less impulsive person might be willing to wait six months for £10, but not wait for a whole year for £15. This means that, for them, the value of the £15 is discounted by £5 over the additional six-month wait. This discount rate is a measure of how impulsive someone is.
Commenting on the findings, Professor Tunney said: “The results showed that children living in the most deprived areas had significantly higher discount rates than children living in the least deprived areas, regardless of age or intelligence, indicating that deprivation was the causal factor in the children’s choice. This preference for immediate outcomes is a stable personality trait that remains constant throughout a person’s life.”
However, in the most recent study published by the Royal Society, the research team investigated impulsivity in over 1,000 older adults aged 50 to 90.
The study discovered that older adults living in the most deprived areas preferred smaller-sooner financial outcomes, just like the children in the first study. It was also discovered that a person’s job predicted the decisions they made. Adults working in technical or routine occupations, such as mechanics or cleaners, preferred to receive smaller sums of money rather than wait for larger sums, when compared to people working in professional occupations, such as engineers or scientists.
Professor Tunney added: “These findings are concerning because impulsivity doesn’t just predict obesity. These findings tell us a lot about why people living in poorer areas tend to be unhealthier than people living in wealthy areas.”
“People who were deprived as children are more likely to choose activities that, while pleasurable in the short term, are harmful in the long run.” This includes overeating, drug use, cigarette smoking, and gambling. We also know that impulsivity can explain why some people become addicts while others are able to avoid some of the more harmful effects of drugs and alcohol.”
“Throughout a person’s lifetime, deprivation is one of many factors that can lead to impulsive behavior. Impulsivity is influenced by genetics as well. Policymakers cannot change a person’s genetic make-up, but they can influence the nation’s long-term mental and physical health by reducing child poverty. Failing to do so will have long-term implications for the children living through today’s cost of living crisis.”