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Poverty affects children's brain development

Growing up in a poor family negatively affects children's cognitive development. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics, which compared MRI scans of children born to families with lower and higher purchasing power, found lower volumes of gray matter (about 10 percent) in the brain of children born in poorer households.

Negative consequences of poverty

The crisis Europe has hit Spain hard, which has seen that 12.8 million people (27.3 percent of its population) are 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 the behaviors of alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, crime, etc. People living 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 en JAMA Pediatrics, confirms previous research that has shown that children living in poverty see their cognitive ability affected

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They perform less in school, have lower scores on intelligence tests, and do not achieve as high a level of education as their wealthier peers.

Poverty physically affects the brain

Despite the fact that poverty has devastating social effects, this study seems to indicate that it is also 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 of Children's Hospital Los Angeles and Kimberly Noble of Columbia University. The study found that the brain of a minor from a family that earns less than $ 25,000 annually, contains 6% less gray matter than that of the child whose family earns $ 150,000 a year. 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 2015 federal poverty level in the United States is $ 24,250 for a family of four.

This study confirms the need to take measures against poverty

Researchers analyzed MRI scans and demographics 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, provide scientific evidence of the need to take measures regarding the situation of poverty in which many individuals live, as this situation negatively affects brain development, and confirms the need for early interventions to reduce the risk to which children born into families are exposed poor.

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

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