Stress in low-income families can affect children's learning

Posted on June 23, 2015

The study of 201 low-income mother-child pairs, conducted at Mount Hope Family Center, tracked the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the children at ages 2, 3, and 4. It found that specific forms of family adversity are linked to both elevated and low levels of cortisol in children. Children with either the elevated or low cortisol levels also had lower than average cognitive ability at age 4.

"What we were interested in seeing is whether specific risk factors of children living in poverty might be related to children's cortisol levels," said lead author Jennifer Suor, a PhD candidate in clinical psychology. "Then we looked to see if the hormone levels are predictive of significant differences in the children's ability to think."

The study, published in the journal Child Development, shows that children in low-income, stressful home environments--specifically homes with family instability and harsh and disengaged mothers--can have adverse levels of cortisol in their bodies, which previously studies have associated with having damaging affects on the structure and function of children's brains.

The researchers said that prevention and intervention could help these at-risk children. "Our findings support the need for an investment in community-based interventions that can strengthen parent-child relationships and reduce family stress very early in a child's life," Suor said.

To read the full article, click on the link below.

Category(s):Child Development

Source material from Science News