Health & Medicine - Posted by Karene Booker-Cornell on Friday, August 10, 2012 15:09 - 0 Comments
Teen health suffers from poverty as child
CORNELL (US) — Childhood adversity is linked to chronic stress in adolescence, setting the stage for a host of physical and mental health problems, a new study finds.
The longitudinal study finds that the greater proportion of childhood spent in poverty, the greater number of risks children were exposed to, and this was linked to increased markers of chronic stress by the time the children were 17.
Straight from the Source
For their analysis, the researchers used survey data on 173 children that included information about family income and exposure to such risks as housing conditions, family turmoil, and violence.
As reported in Psychological Science, the children’s blood pressure, overnight levels of stress hormones, and body mass index were measured to assess physiological changes, known as allostatic load, which are associated with chronic stress.
“While prior work has shown that childhood poverty is linked to elevated chronic stress, as indicated by allostatic load, this study adds two critical ingredients: We demonstrate this in a prospective, longitudinal design which makes the evidence stronger, and we show that the poverty-allostatic load link is explained in part by low-income children’s exposure to cumulative risk factors,” says lead author Gary W. Evans, professor of human ecology at Cornell University. He conducted the study with Pilyoung Kim, now an assistant professor at the University of Denver.
“In other words, one reason why poverty leads to chronic stress is because of the confluence of risk factors poor children encounter,” Evans says.
The cumulative effect of these risks can add up to levels of stress capable of damaging the developing brain and body and setting a trajectory for future disorders, the authors say.
“Poverty often leads to chaotic circumstances that make it more difficult for children to get what they need to develop optimally,” Evans says.
“Chaos makes it difficult to sustain predictable and increasingly complex exchanges between caregivers and the growing child. Furthermore, this chaos occurs across many of the settings in which the children’s lives are embedded, such as neighborhoods and schools.
“Based on what we’re learning about the harmful and long-term effects of chronic stress on child development, we need to broaden our thinking about how we can improve the life prospects of children at risk and we need to make these investments early in life before the adverse effects of stress are encoded in the developing child, he says.
The W.T. Grant Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Socioeconomic Status and Health funded the research.
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