Children who grow up in a difficult climate can develop a troubled relationship with money. American researchers have investigated this question.
Posted yesterday at 6:00 am
We know that a troubled childhood is very likely to follow us into adulthood. It can also have an impact on our behavior with money.
Several factors are decisive, specifies from the beginning Emily Johnson, doctoral student at the University of Kentucky, co-author of the study Past traumas: The impacts of negative childhood experiences on attachment, beliefs, and behaviors toward money and financial transparency in adulthood.
The spectrum is wide: a childhood in which there was physical or psychological abuse, abandonment, money problems or simply the way in which expenses were addressed within the family probably negatively influences our relationship with money later, the researcher points out, meeting Monday in Lexington. .
Emily Johnson and her team already knew that difficult childhoods influence adult life, including behavior with finances. “In therapy we always look at the situation with the idea that our childhood influences our attitudes now,” says the researcher, who is continuing her studies in economics and family finances.
The financial situation of the family will also influence how we approach our expenses later on.
“A child who grows up in an environment where he feels a lack of economic resources runs the risk of developing one of these two behaviors: he may have a feeling of lack and fear of spending, for fear of running out of money; conversely, if his income is better as an adult, he may want to spend a lot on his social image. »
In this research, the notion of attachment is a key notion.
“We consider a notion of healthy attachment when the child feels comfortable and protected by adults who have the responsibility, we read in the American study. You know you can trust these adults to meet your physical and emotional needs. This will translate later in her life into her financial status. »
The good news is that the results of the analysis of the collected data conclude that children who have received adequate support become adults who tend to spend less. But we should not conclude that a happy childhood is a foolproof protection against money problems, warns Emily Johnson: “On average, however, the risk is lower. »
money and marriage
Investigators were also interested in money within the couple. They conclude that there is a link between attachment difficulties during childhood and lack of transparency in the couple when it comes to finances.
A child who was wondering if she could trust adults, including her own parents, will behave more suspiciously later on, says Emily Johnson. “He will feel less comfortable discussing finances openly with his partner,” she says. Communication will be difficult. »
But, says the researcher, herself a marriage and family therapist, money problems are one of the leading causes of divorce in the United States.
Spouses come to therapy when the couple is in trouble, but they rarely address financial issues, failing to see the connection between one and the other.
The same thing happens with individual therapy, where finances are rarely discussed, even if it is the person who consults, specifies Emily Johnson.
So what do you do if you suddenly realize that you have a behavior problem with money and that it may stem from a deficiency that goes back a long time?
“It’s never too late to see a psychologist,” Emily Johnson replies without hesitation. Ideally, a therapist who specializes in finances, or at least a professional who is comfortable discussing the topic. »
The three co-signing researchers of this study accessed data on 500 Americans in the age groups 18 to 75 years online, through the Amazon Mechanical Turk site, which provides a volunteer base.
The main limitation of the study, explains Emily Johnson, is the way in which the participants perceive childhood trauma, and that is why she intends to continue investigating this area, which is still relatively unexplored. She herself wants to be interested in debt and the effect it can have on our well-being, our mood, our anxiety, even if it can contribute to cases of depression.
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