Poverty hurts young brains but social safety net may help

Sunday, May 21, 2023 - 14:32 in Psychology & Sociology

Time and again, science finds that poverty is hard on developing brains. “Higher levels of anxiety and depression are well-established among kids growing up in families with lower income,” said Harvard psychology Professor Katie A. McLaughlin. “Over the past decade or so, we’ve learned there are also well-replicated differences in brain development as a function of a family’s socioeconomic status.” But a robust social safety net may buffer young minds from these effects, according to a new paper in Nature Communications by McLaughlin and her colleagues. Benefits like cash assistance and access to Medicaid seem to be especially beneficial for children in states with a high cost of living. The researchers relied on the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study, which follows more than 11,000 youth in 17 states. ABCD collects troves of parent-reported behavioral health data and uses neuroimaging to track brain development. “Historically, it’s quite rare to have what we call...

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