Growing up in a low-income family negatively affects the cognitive development of children. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics, which compared magnetic resonance imaging of children born in families with lower and higher purchasing power, found lower volumes of gray matter (around 10 percent) in the brains of children born in poorer households.
Negative Consequences Of Poverty
The European crisis has hit hard to Spain, which has seen as 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 behaviors of alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, crime, et cetera. People in poverty experience many destructive behaviors due to intense emotional suffering and the consciousness of having been forgotten or despised by the system.
But this study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, confirms previous research that has shown the children who live in poverty see their cognitive ability affected: they perform less in school, have lower scores on intelligence tests. And, they do not reach an educational level as high as their peers.
Poverty Physically Affects The Brain
Although the situation of poverty has devastating social effects, this study seems to indicate that it would also have a physical impact on the brain, since 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, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and Kimberly Noble, Columbia University. In the study, it was found that the brain of a child of a family that receives less than 25 thousand dollars a year, contains 6% less gray matter than the child whose family spends 150 thousand dollars a year.
Children who live in families whose income level is below the federal poverty level have up to 10 percent less gray matter. The national poverty level of 2015 in the United States is $ 24,250 for a family of four.
This Study Confirms The Need To Take Measures Against Poverty
The researchers analyzed magnetic resonance imaging 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 findings of this study, added to the already existing literature on the negative consequences of poverty, provide scientific evidence of the need to take action regarding the situation of poverty in which they live many individuals. This situation negatively affects the development of the brain and confirms the need for early interventions to decrease the risk that are exposed to children and who have been born into low-income families.