Early Maltreatment, Executive Functioning, and the Protective Role of Early Childhood Interventions.
Lamoreau, Renee S.
- Executive functioning, a subset of cognition associated with the prefrontal cortex, is highly influenced by adverse early experiences like childhood maltreatment. However, since the developing brain is adaptive, social support and therapeutic interventions may alleviate some of the negative effects of maltreatment in young children. This senior thesis examines the effects of maltreatment occurring... read moreprior to 24 months of age on preschool-aged children’s executive functioning, also exploring how home-visiting and center-based childcare programs may improve cognitive outcomes for at-risk children. Data were drawn from a randomized control trial examining the impacts of a statewide home visiting program for adolescent mothers and their children. Findings showed that maltreated children did not exhibit lower executive functioning when compared with non-maltreated children. These findings provide support for resilience following early maltreatment; or conversely, the neurocognitive effects of maltreatment may remain latent until middle childhood or adolescence. Results also indicated that earlier placement in center-based childcare (≤24 months) was associated with higher visuo-spatial working memory, but other domains of executive functioning were not significantly related to center-based childcare participation. These results indicate that center-based childcare may produce domain-specific executive functioning benefits, but more investigation is needed to determine the linkage between center-based childcare and executive functioning.read less