Growing up in poverty may have a direct impact on cognitive development. New research shows that the stress of growing up in poverty – caused by problems including unstable housing, food insecurity, family dysfunction and neighborhood violence — can result in slower rates of growth in parts of the brain that are critical for processing information. In a 2015 study of children aged three to 20, researchers from nine universities reported that the brain of a child who grew up in a family earning less than $25,000 a year was six percent smaller in surface area than that of a child whose family earned $150,000 annually. . The study complements 2013 research from a team of two universities who studied brain scans from a National Institutes of Health database and found that children living in families with incomes under 200 percent of the federal poverty level had less brain tissue in the parietal and frontal lobes of the brain than children in affluent families. These areas are responsible for behavior and learning. A 2013 study by a team of four universities further links poverty to impairments in emotional development. The nine-year-olds living in low-income families in this study later exhibited brain dysfunctions associated with depression, anxiety, impulsive aggression and substance abuse as adults. This page will feature content that highlights these stories.
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A new study finds cognitive development may be impaired by poverty.