Poverty is a ubiquitous societal adversity, which plagues roughly half of the U.S. population. Being economically challenged limits your access to valuable resources, which are essential to survival.
A scientific research study that was recently profiled in Newsweek Magazine clearly shows how poverty and the stress, which derives from it wreaks havoc on a child’s brain function. This study was conducted by a research team at the University of Southern California (USC).
The research team was led by Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, a USC neuroscientist. This USC study is still ongoing and has been worked on for the past five years. So far, 73 low-income teens from different cities in Southern California have participated in the USC study.
Immordino-Yang has been observing how culture, income level, relationships with family, and the exposure to violence affects the minds of children. Mike Kemp, the Newsweek columnist who covered this USC study on children and poverty wrote the following about the study’s preliminary findings:
“Early results show a troubling trend: Kids who grow up with higher levels of violence as a backdrop in their lives, based on MRI scans, have weaker real-time neural connections and interaction in parts of the brain involved in awareness, judgment, and ethical and emotional processing.” (Newsweek.com)
Immordino-Yang is a pioneer of a growing professional field of study and practice called the Neuroscience of Poverty. The research conducted in this field is proving many consistencies that show the biological effects poverty has on the underage youth population.
One report by the USC research team showed that children from impoverished households had a smaller amount of tissue in their brains, which promotes how information is processed and the capacity to exhibit sophisticated behavior. This brain tissue is called gray matter.
Other professionals in this line of work also shared their views on the matter with Newsweek. “We have [long] known about the social class differences in health and learning outcomes,” Dr. Jack Shonkoff told Newsweek Magazine. Dr. Shonkoff is the director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.