In Chapter 6, the impact of early childhood and school on an individual’s lifelong health is discussed. More common myths were debunked, such as the criticality of breastfeeding on long-term health and normal personality development. (They found no difference.) The debunked myth that I found most fascinating, though, was the idea that starting bright children earlier in school gives them an advantage. They actually found the opposite–that starting school at a very early age can lead to more difficulties and ‘erratic life paths’ in the future. I thought this was super interesting, especially when thinking about the people I know who skipped a grade. I knew one girl whose parents actually had her skip two grades early on, and she always had a really tough time socially. It makes sense that peer relations and social adjustment end up mattering more than intellectual challenge at that age, which makes me SO glad that my parents decided not to enter me in kindergarten early when my teachers suggested it. Especially with how competitive I’ve always been, I probably would’ve been a much more stressed out child than I already was. (Plus, who knows how much more awkward I could’ve turned out, honestly.) Solid call, thanks mom and dad.
Chapter 7 addresses parental divorce and the serious risk it poses to longevity. The authors found that children from divorced families died 5 years earlier on average, which is insane! What’s even stranger is that the death of a parent doesn’t confer the same risk to life expectancy as divorce. Maybe it’s because divorce causes a more drastic break in the family, and likely more stress to the child. This can lead to riskier behavior later in life, like heavy smoking and drinking, lower educational achievement, and higher chance of divorce later on. This disadvantage was overcome by resilient participants, as well as participants whose families were high conflict/low nurturance–which meant divorce was somewhat of a relief rather than a shock. I probably shouldn’t have been as surprised by these findings as I was, but it’s hard to believe that a life event can really have that much impact on a person’s life trajectory.