The importance of childhood experiences

By | Health & Wellness
Positive childhood experiences and behaviours like outdoor activity and healthy nutrition, have shown to have an impact on adult health. Gardening offers the perfect middle ground between a fun, weight reduction outdoor activity and a pastime that offers exercise and promotes healthy direction for children. Credit image@ godfreyhannahr, flickr.com

Innovative research has uncovered the links between behaviors established during childhood which may have effects later on in life, thanks to a novel way of predicting the influence of certain traits, reports a study from an international team. The Dutch, Finnish, American and Swiss researchers published their results on the online scientific journal PLoS ONE. It might seem when it comes to things like weight, the role of the parent is often a key predictor of how healthy the child might be later on in life, concludes the study.

What made the report unique was the novel way the scientists gathered the information needed to assess the behavioral patterns related to adult health predictors originating from childhood experiences. Instead of traditional data collection methods such as hospital questionnaires, the team looked to crowd sourcing as a potential and innovative way of gathering the information required, thanks to the users of the popular user-generated news site reddit.com.

Crowd sourcing, a rather modern term, is the use of online communities to obtain ideas or views, for example, from a large number of people without needing to go to traditional suppliers. By posting notices in the dieting, weight reduction and parenting section of the website, the team looked to recruit participants in order to answer the following: “Which childhood experiences and behaviors might predict slimness or weight conditions in adulthood?”

A total of 532 people took part in the study, having been redirected from reddit to a question-generating website whereby individuals may answer questions submitted by previous users on the subject of childhood experiences and future weight, whilst also being invited to ask their own.

Individuals provided their personal insights into how behaviors experienced as a child might have impacts on their adult weight, writing about a range of subjects from psychological health to family history, and submitted it as a question for other users to answer. In addition, their body mass index (BMI) and age were collected.

The results of this exercise yielded several innovative results. The question-generation website came up with 56 unique questions, nineteen of which were regarding BMI and had previously been looked into as part of previous scientific hypotheses. However, the participants were able to pinpoint key childhood experiences or behaviors have yet to be fully explored by science. The researchers seemed to be particularly impressed by their data collection method, and mentioned crowd sourcing might be a productive means of replicating known hypotheses whilst also providing new insight and ideas for them to explore which may have been overlooked. In addition, the crowd sourcing method may be fast and affordable, making it an ideal data collection method.

As for the data, the scientists were able to correlate certain shared traits which lead to a healthy adult weight. Participants who reported a reduced BMI all seemed to show similar habits and experiences, including parents who cooked from scratch and talked about nutrition often, with engaging in outdoor activities and having many friends as commonplace experiences.

As a result, the team encouraged parents to be part of their child’s lifestyle, involving themselves in areas like outdoor physical activity whilst ensuring adequate sleep and balanced nutrition. By modifying childhood experienced for the better, there may be a greater chance of reaping the rewards of these habits and lifestyle choices in the long run.

How might this new research improve the general health of individuals?

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