In a report published in Psychological Science, researchers in a study associated with Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA have concluded a person’s home environment as a child has a profound affect on them over 60 years later.
In this study, that has been ongoing for 78 years, researchers followed a group of people starting at adolescence into late life. It was a unique study as it required adding new team members to continue this multi-decade analysis.
This particular aspect of the study started sixty years ago and involved 81 men, 50 whose family were connected with Harvard and 31 from an inner city area in Boston.
During their early adolescent years, the selected members of the study group went through an in-depth interview, where earlier researchers gathered information on their home environment, relationship with their mom and dad and general family life. They also interviewed the parents.
From this, the researchers created a profile of each person and a measurement of how nurturing their family life was.
The research group interviewed these men throughout the years and then again most recently when they were in their 70s and 80s by researchers Robert Waldinger from Harvard and Marc Schultz from Bryn Mawr College (Bryn Mawr, PA).
Waldinger and Schultz asked questions about the men’s marriage and because of their age this included how much support they provided their spouses and as well how much support they received.
Again they quantified their relationship to compare it to their earlier profiles.
In its release on the study Psychological Science states:
Waldinger and Schultz found that participants who had a nurturing family environment early in life were more likely to have secure attachments to their romantic partners later in life.
Professor Marc Shultz added:
“It’s remarkable that the influence of childhood on later-life marriage can still be seen.”
I believe in some ways this study substantiates what King Solomon wrote centuries earlier:
Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6 NKJV)
The verse tells us that the truths we teach our children will stay with them into old age. The Hebrew word for train “chamak” means both to train and dedicate — committing your children to God.
I don’t believe we should ever underestimate the influence we have on our children in their formative years. If we faithfully share God and His word with them it will have a lasting impact.
But I believe this verse tells us something else. It says when they are old they won’t depart from them. I believe there can be gaps or periods of time when our children will seem to be indifferent to God or even resistant.
But if we remain faithful in prayer, at some point those planted seeds will sprout.
As a Christian parent you need to continue praying and believing for your child. Don’t let their outward appearances shake your faith.
- Childhood family environment linked with relationship quality 60 years later: Psychological Science