IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

The impact of malnutrition and post traumatic stress disorder on the performance of working memory in children

Listed author(s):
  • De Neubourg, Elise


    (Economic Policy Research Institute (EPRI), Cape Town)

  • De Neubourg, Chris


    (Innocenti Research Centre, UNICEF)

Registered author(s):

    Malnutrition is accepted to have a negative impact on the school performance of children and adolescents. Malnutrition also has a negative impact on cognitive development and a potentially lasting effect on (some) cognitive functions. This paper focuses on the effects of malnutrition and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on short-term-working-memory on children. These effects are important since defective working memory capacities limit the learning ability of young children and thus the success of investment in human capital. The study is based on an empirical study among 80 children (boys and girls) aged between 9 and 13 years old in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, conducted in 2010 in cooperation with UNICEF. The study involved testing the children on a number of working memory tests (Digit Span, Coding and Bourbon-Vos) and the Raven SPM intelligence test. Malnutrition was measured as stunting. The population of children living in Banda Aceh had been exposed to severe stress during the tsunami of December 2004 and its aftermath, and during the long-lasting violent conflict in the region. The study measured the degree of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) using the Child PTSD Symptoms Scale (CPSS). PTSD is proved to have similar effects on brain development as malnutrition and thus the effects of malnutrition on the working memory of children have to be controlled for the potential effects of PTSD. According to the results of the study, malnutrition is associated with a decrease in performance on the working memory tasks. On the contrary, intelligence measured by Raven's SPM was not associated with the decrease in performance on the working memory tasks, while it was found that a high score on the CPSS was indeed associated with a decrease in the performance on the three working memory tests. The study concludes with a discussion of the policy relevance of the results and sets out an agenda for further research.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT) in its series MERIT Working Papers with number 005.

    in new window

    Date of creation: 2012
    Handle: RePEc:unm:unumer:2012005
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    P.O. Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht

    Phone: (31) (0)43 3883875
    Fax: (31) (0)43 3216518
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    in new window

    1. Isabelle Huault & V. Perret & S. Charreire-Petit, 2007. "Management," Post-Print halshs-00337676, HAL.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:unm:unumer:2012005. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Ad Notten)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.