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Stress of poverty may last a lifetime
The stresses of poverty — measured via stress hormones — leads to impaired learning ability in children and may last a lifetime, U.S. researchers say.
Clancy Blair of New York University said high levels of stress hormones influence the developing circuitry of children’s brains, inhibiting such higher cognitive functions such as planning, impulse and emotional control, and attention known as executive function.
Poverty stress resulting from crowded conditions, financial worry, a lack of adequate child care and insecure food lead to impaired learning ability in children from impoverished backgrounds.
However, Blair added that although poverty is considered a major source of stress, the findings also suggested other sources of stress might affect children in all income groups from stress from divorce, harsh parenting, struggles with a learning disability or severe illness.
“The conclusion from this body of work is that working to reduce inappropriate environmental stresses facing young children would not only improve their overall well being, but also improve their ability to learn in school,” James A. Griffin of the Child Development and Behavior Branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development said in a statement.
The findings are scheduled to be published in the September/October issue of Scientific American Mind.
Copyright 2012 by United Press International