Caring for Our Children’s Brains: Poverty and Stressful Life Events

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It has long been suspected that poverty and stress were unhealthy for our children.  However, research has now determined there is a direct correlation between our children’s brains and their environment.  According to Luby, J. et al, poverty and stressful life events can cause a reduction in the function of the amygdala, the hippocampus, as well as a reduction in grey and white matter.  What effect does this have on the cognitive functioning of a child over time?  All of these areas of the brain impact memory and our response to events and how they are stored in our brains.  For a child who is living in poverty and experiencing stressful life events, they will struggle to learn and retain new information.  Their responses to stressful events will be skewed later in life because of dysfunction in the amygdala, which regulates emotional responses and memory.  Research has also shown that poor care giving/support for a child impacts the hippocampus, which is also involved in memory.  Additionally, the Luby, et al research indicated that there was a meditational affect in care giving support/hostility and the volume of grey and white matter.  Simply stated, the more support a child receives during stressful events, the less loss of volume in the grey and white matter down the road.  These results suggest that if we want to care for our children’s brains, we need to pay closer attention to the primary care givers, and offer support to them as they struggle with the challenges of poverty in order to reduce the amount of stress on the children and increase supportive care giving.

Click here to read more about the study.

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