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Abstract:

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CEP Discussion Paper
The Enduring Impact of Childhood Experience on Mental Health: Evidence Using Instrumented Co-Twin Data
Rachel Berner Shalem, Francesca Cornaglia and Jan-Emmanuel De Neve November 2012
Paper No' CEPDP1175:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: I10


Tags: mental health; childhood experience; twin study; instrumental variable analysis

The question of whether there is a lasting effect of childhood experience on mental health has eluded causal measurement. We draw upon identical twin data and econometric instrumentation to provide an unbiased answer. We find that 55% of a one standard deviation change in mental health due to idiosyncratic experience at age 9 will still be present three years later. Extending the analysis, we find such persistence to vary with age at impact, gender, and mental health sub-categories. This investigation allows us to get a grasp on the degree to which childhood events influence health and socio-economic outcomes by way of their lagged effect on subsequent mental health. A better understanding of the evolution of mental health also helps identifying when mental health issues can be most effectively treated.