Friendship can counteract trauma, study finds
The Sector > Research > Friendships can help mitigate the effects of trauma early in life, new study finds

Friendships can help mitigate the effects of trauma early in life, new study finds

by Freya Lucas

June 06, 2023

Strong social ties may be one way to make up for adversity in early childhood, a new study has found. 


A research team, led by SUNY Oswego’s Liz Lange made observations of baboons, with researchers seeing “tangible connections” to the human experience. 


The team worked with data from 1983 to 2019 collected by the Amboseli Baboon Research Project by observing nearly 200 baboons in southern Kenya. 


“One major finding of this research is that early life environments and adult social bonds or friendships have independent effects on survival instead of all of the impacts of early life environments going through a pathway that includes social bonds,” Ms Lange said.


“We’ve seen these relationships before the study in humans and in nonhuman animals like baboons,” she added. “There are links between early life adversity and reduced survival as well as links between social isolation and dying younger.”


In other words, she continued, “if you have a bad childhood or you don’t have friends, you tend to have a shorter life. However, this is the first study to show that these links are largely independent.”


“We found that for certain sources of early adversity, if you can make strong friendships, they can make up for your bad early start,” Ms Lange said. “For example, if you lose your mother but you still make strong friendships, then your survival is not as bad. That means making friends is really important if you have a bad early life.”


The paper, “Early life adversity and adult social relationships have independent effects on survival in a wild primate,” was recently published in Science Advances and has already earned attention from mainstream media outlets. 

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