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Poverty affects the brain development of children

Poverty affects the brain development of children

May 1, 2024

Growing up in a poor family negatively affects the cognitive development of children . A study published in JAMA Pediatrics, which compared magnetic resonance imaging of children born in families with lower and higher purchasing power, found lower volumes of gray matter (around 10 percent) in the brains of children born in poorer households.

Negative consequences of poverty

The European crisis has hit hard in Spain, which has seen as 12.8 million people (27.3 percent of its population) is at risk of poverty or exclusion. Since the crisis began, in 2008, 1,320,216 people have fallen into this vulnerable situation.

Many studies have focused on the relationship between poverty and behaviors of alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, crime , etc. People in poverty experience many destructive behaviors due to intense emotional suffering and the awareness of having been forgotten or despised by the system.

But this study, published in JAMA Pediatricsconfirms previous research that has shown that children who live in poverty see their cognitive capacity affected They perform less in school, have lower scores on intelligence tests and do not reach an educational level as high as their wealthier peers.

Poverty physically affects the brain

Although the situation of poverty has devastating social effects, this study seems to indicate that it would have a physical effect on the brain , because poverty is associated with less gray matter (10 percent less) in the brain of a child born in a family with fewer economic resources.

The research was led by Elizabeth Sowell, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, and Kimberly Noble, Columbia University. In the study it was found that the brains of a child of a family that receives less than 25 thousand dollars a year, contains 6% less gray matter than the child whose family spends 150 thousand dollars a year.

Children who live in families where their income level is below the federal poverty level have up to 10 percent less gray matter. The federal poverty level of 2015 in the United States is $ 24,250 for a family of four.

This study confirms the need to take measures against poverty

The researchers analyzed magnetic resonance imaging and demographic data of 389 American children, ages 4 to 22, and assessed the amount of gray matter throughout the brain, in addition to the frontal lobe, temporal lobe, and hippocampus. The data was collected between November 2001 and August 2007.

The conclusions of this study, added to the existing literature on the negative consequences of poverty, contribute scientific evidence of the need to take measures regarding the situation of poverty in which many individuals live, because this situation negatively affects the development of the brain, and confirms the need for early interventions to reduce the risk to which children born in poor families are exposed.

Bibliographic references

  • Seth D. Pollak, PhD et al. Poverty's most insidious damage: The developing brain. JAMA Pediatrics, July 2015 DOI: 10.1001 / jamapediatrics.2015.1475
  • Joan L. Luby, MD. Poverty's Most Insidious Damage: The Developing Brain. JAMA Pediatrics, July 2015 DOI: 10.1001 / jamapediatrics.2015.1682

How does 'toxic stress' of poverty hurt the developing brain? (May 2024).

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