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wilbur
04-01-2009, 02:23 PM
Very interesting article...

http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/03/poordevelopment.html



Growing up poor isn't merely hard on kids. It might also be bad for their brains. A long-term study of cognitive development in lower- and middle-class students found strong links between childhood poverty, physiological stress and adult memory.

The findings support a neurobiological hypothesis for why impoverished children consistently fare worse than their middle-class counterparts in school, and eventually in life.
"Chronically elevated physiological stress is a plausible model for how poverty could get into the brain and eventually interfere with achievement," wrote Cornell University child-development researchers Gary Evans and Michelle Schamberg in a paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For decades, education researchers have documented the disproportionately low academic performance of poor children and teenagers living in poverty. Called the achievement gap, its proposed sociological explanations are many. Compared to well-off kids, poor children tend to go to ill-equipped and ill-taught schools, have fewer educational resources at home, eat low-nutrition food, and have less access to health care.


At the same time, scientists have studied the cognitive abilities of poor children, and the neurobiological effects of stress on laboratory animals. They've found that, on average, socioeconomic status predicts a battery of key mental abilities, with deficits showing up in kindergarten and continuing through middle school. Scientists also found that hormones produced in response to stress literally wear down the brains of animals.

....


This is really interesting. There is evidence to suggest that an upbringing in poverty actually has biological consequences for the brain and its development.

Before anyone starts up, I'm not advocating more hand-outs and welfare checks... but IF an upbringing in poverty does have consequences that affect ones ability to escape it... rooted in physiology that cannot be changed... does this knowledge change our duties to said people or require us to rethink our policies at all?

FlaGator
04-01-2009, 02:35 PM
Very interesting article...

http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/03/poordevelopment.html



This is really interesting. There is evidence to suggest that an upbringing in poverty actually has biological consequences for the brain and its development.

Before anyone starts up, I'm not advocating more hand-outs and welfare checks... but IF an upbringing in poverty does have consequences that affect ones ability to escape it... rooted in physiology that cannot be changed... does this knowledge change our duties to said people or require us to rethink our policies at all?

I would like to know the makeup of the control and test groups. To merely state that one group was poor and the other was middle class isn't a satisfactory description of the discernment of brain function.

Gingersnap
04-01-2009, 03:00 PM
I wouldn't necessarily say that 195 subjects constitutes "an impressive data set". It was impossible to tell from the abstract exactly what factors were studied other than "substandard housing" and "family turmoil".

Living in bad neighborhoods and dealing with family chaos is likely to have a negative impact on anybody. Not being able to buy the currently popular athletic shoes or hot new games is a social disadvantage (for a minute) but probably doesn't impact cognitive development.

The measured differences between the kids in poverty and the kids in middle class families weren't great. I wonder how much of that difference has to do with practice. Middle class kids are more likely to be practiced in simple memory skills since they are more likely to have parents who do hands-on school prep with them.

I'm pretty certain that poor kids who have stable family lives, high parental expectations, and goal-oriented futures do better than their chaotic peers in poor families, working class families, or middle class families. Stability and planning have a pretty positive effect on stress. People who are taught to be goal-oriented learn impulse control and develop the ability to ignore unimportant negative stresses in day-today life. This means that they avoid more of the kinds of situations that generate stress: fights, crime, drugs, etc.

PoliCon
04-01-2009, 03:04 PM
Growing up in poverty can very easily effect how you think - but whether for the good or the bad is up to you. After all - Andrew Carnegie grew up in abject poverty . . . . As have many many other very successful people. I don't think it's the money or lack of money that is the problem - it's the character and morality of the parents.

noonwitch
04-01-2009, 03:10 PM
It could be important for educational planning, to devise strategies to counter this effect in poor areas and districts. And, in the case of intergenerational educational problems, it could lead to a strategy to involve the parents in their children's educations, and to maybe help the parents improve their academic skills.


An aggressive lead-paint removal program in urban and older suburban areas is one thing that might help. The fact that it is 2009 and children still get lead poisoning in older housing is just amazing to me. The main reason is that no one has cracked down on landlords regarding this. Although I work in an old city with lots of subquality rental housing, I'm sure this is a problem in other communities. I know Grand Rapids at one point surpassed Detroit in the per capita rate of lead exposure in children. I suspect, as they have courts that have zero tolerance for slumlords, that they have worked to eradictate the problem more diligently than Detroit has done.

In rural areas, I wonder how much nutrition and other factors play into the problems. In big cities, there are plenty of food resources, even in poor cities like Detroit. Churches, the Salvation Army, Gleaners and soup kitchens feed thousands every day. In poor communities, there is no public transportation, and getting to the free food might be a problem. I wonder about that whenever I drive through Lake County, which is actually the poorest county in Michigan. It's very rural, and very poor in parts.