October 30, 2013
A study out of the Washington University School of Medicine (WSM) claims that childhood poverty, when combined with a stressful life circumstance and non-nurturing parents, can irrevocably damage a child’s brain.
Joan Luby, child psychiatrist and lead author of the study stated that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to observe and record changes in the brain that is assumed to reflect mental instability such as depression, learning difficulties and other intellectual limitations that affect the person’s ability to deal with stress.
Participants in the study were 305 children who were deemed mentally healthy and depressed. Their performance was tracked from preschool.
The children now are from ages 6 -12.
The study explains: “Preschoolers included in the study were 3 to 6 years of age and were recruited from primary care and day care sites in the St Louis metropolitan area; they were annually assessed behaviorally for 5 to 10 years.
Healthy preschoolers and those with clinical symptoms of depression participated in neuroimaging at school age/early adolescence.”
Findings conclude that low-income families produce children who have less gray and white brain matter.
Since gray matter is linked to intelligence and white matter is correlated with the brain’s ability to facilitate neuro-connectors through various cells and structures in the brain, the authors of the study stated that children who were neglected and poor are less intelligent than other members of the social class system.
The hippocampus, involved in the conversion of short-term to long-term memory, and the amygdala, where emotions and memories are processed, are relatively smaller and may be indicative of a functional impairment.
Indeed, Luby’s team asserts that “the main driver of changes among poor children in the volume of the hippocampus was not lack of money but the extent to which poor parents nurtured their children.”
The study said: “The finding that exposure to poverty in early childhood materially impacts brain development at school age further underscores the importance of attention to the well-established deleterious effects of poverty on child development.”
Luby explained: “We’ve known for many years from behavioral studies that exposure to poverty is one of the most powerful predictors of poor developmental outcomes for children. A growing number of neuroscience and brain-imaging studies recently have shown that poverty also has a negative effect on brain development. What’s new is that our research shows the effects of poverty on the developing brain, particularly in the hippocampus, are strongly influenced by parenting and life stresses that the children experience.”
The research is being applied to the ideology that children who were poor are not able to keep up with the rest of their peers academically because of a phenomenon associated with small brain volumes with respect to emotional processing and memory.
The US Census Bureau reported that for 2012, there were 46.2 million Americans living under the poverty line.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that 101,000,000 Americans are on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the domestic US at a cost of $114 billion annually as of 2012.
For perspective, the number of US citizens receiving food stamps surpasses the number of employed workers in the private sector.
The Bureau of Labor (BoL) statistical data shows that in 2012 an estimated 97,180,000 full – time workers were accounted for.
It is assumed through statistical data that 200,000 children receive free meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).