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Open Access Publications from the University of California

External-environmental and internal-health early life predictors of adolescent development

  • Author(s): Hartman, S
  • Li, Z
  • Nettle, D
  • Belsky, J
  • et al.

A wealth of evidence documents associations between various aspects of the rearing environment and later development. Two evolutionary-inspired models advance explanations for why and how such early experiences shape later functioning: (a) the external-prediction model, which highlights the role of the early environment (e.g., parenting) in regulating children's development, and (b) the internal-prediction model, which emphasizes internal state (i.e., health) as the critical regulator. Thus, by using data from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, the current project draws from both models by investigating whether the effect of the early environment on later adolescent functioning is subject to an indirect effect by internal-health variables. Results showed a significant indirect effect of internal health on the relation between the early environment and adolescent behavior. Specifically, early environmental adversity during the first 5 years of life predicted lower quality health during childhood, which then led to problematic adolescent functioning and earlier age of menarche for girls. In addition, for girls, early adversity predicted lower quality health that forecasted earlier age of menarche leading to increased adolescent risk taking. The discussion highlights the importance of integrating both internal and external models to further understand the developmental processes that effect adolescent behavior.

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