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Description: Does growing up in poverty have implications for developmental outcomes, yes it does. Why might that be? Well one possibility is that growing up in poverty has a negative impact upon the developmental growth of children’s brains.

Sources: Huffington Post: Study Reveals Sad Link Between Poverty And Children’s Brain Development

Date: March 30, 2015

Brain growth

Photo Source: Orhanam via Getty Images: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/30/brain-development-poverty_n_6968758.html

Links:    Huffington Post Study Reveals Sad Link Between Poverty And Children’s Brain Development – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/30/brain-development-poverty_n_6968758.html

Early research (Diamond, Krech and Rosenzweig, 1964) showed that rats raised in enriched (stimulating) environments had denser brains (in terms of number of neural interconnections) than rats reared in impoverished environments. Recent research has confirmed what we suspected was likely true, that impoverished human developmental environments have similar effects of the brains of developing children and adolescents. Key questions concern how family income and parental education are related in terms of their impact on child development and brain growth. We cannot assume that the resources available when income is high impact child development independently of the quality of interaction that better educated parents might provide. Sorting them out is important because it will have implications for the cost and design of possible intervention efforts. Intervention planning is important as programs aimed at children and adolescents have been shown to have positive impacts upon both brain development and general developmental outcomes for children.

So does finding a relationship between brain developmental and socioeconomic family status tell us anything we did not already know? Well maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t but if being able to point to measurable differences in brain growth and development linked to SES leads to more focused intervention strategies to deal with them (such as parental training, early intervention, home visitation, and poverty mitigation efforts) then it’s usefulness is supported by better outcomes.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How might family SES effect children’s’ brain growth?
  2. What sorts of intervention strategies should we consider utilizing with impoverished families and children in light of this research?
  3. How are epigenetic arguments about the nature of brain growth (such as those supported by this research) different than simpler arguments about a genetic basis for differences in developmental outcomes for children raised in low versus high SES family environments?

References (Read Further):

Diamond MC, Krech D, Rosenzweig MR (August 1964). “The Effects of an Enriched Environment on the Histology of the Rat Cerebral Cortex”. J. Comp. Neurol. 123: 111–20.

Noble, Kimberly G. et al, (2015) Family income, parental education and brain structure in children and adolescents published online March 2015, http://www.nature.com.ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca/neuro/journal/vaop/ncurrent/pdf/nn.3983.pdf

Neville, Helen J., et al, (2013) Family-based training program improves brain function, cognition, and behavior in lower socioeconomic status preschoolers, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America, 110(29), 12138-12143. http://www.pnas.org/content/110/29/12138.full.pdf

McLoyd, Vonnie C. (1998) Socioeconomic disadvantage and child development. American Psychologist, Vol 53(2), 185-204.

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