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The Impact of Malnutrition and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on the Performance of Working Memory in Children: Preliminary draft

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Children & Youth in Crisis

The effects of malnutrition among children on their school performance has been studied extensively and found both considerable and long lasting. While in itself important enough to focus policy interventions on avoiding malnutrition, it teaches us little about how exactly malnutrition affects the functioning and the behaviour of children leading to a worse performance at school compared to adequately nourished children. It is important to understand the consequences of malnutrition for the brain development, the working memory and the learning capacity of children in order to design policy interventions that minimize the effects of malnutrition on their later investment in human capital and their consequent economic prospects in further life. These policy interventions are far from a luxury since, unfortunately, malnutrition is still important in many countries and recent and coming food crises are expected to increase the number of malnourished children considerably. It is important to be better informed about how to assist children who have been exposed to malnourishment.

This study puts some pieces of the puzzle together by studying the relationship between malnutrition, working memory and intelligence among a group of children in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. The results are a “by-product” of a study on the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on the working memory of children. 

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