Research Cases

Poverty, Stress and Brain Development in Infancy and Early Childhood

By April, 2016 No Comments
Unrecognizable young mother with her son in sling

Clancy Blair Ph.D., Professor of Cognitive Psychology, Department of Applied Psychology, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University

C. Cybele Raver, Ph.D., Vice Provost for Academic, Research, and Faculty Affairs, New York University

Date Published
April, 2016

We review evidence indicating that the experience of poverty is physiologically stressful for children and families. We examine the cost of poverty-related alterations to stress response physiology for brain development and brain function and consider implications for psychological and behavioral development. We also highlight the potential malleability of the processes involved and describe some promising new directions for prevention and intervention. The Human Project provides valuable metrics of family processes and contexts that are potentially stressful. These include, among other things, financial or health related circumstances, as well as interactions between parents and children. It is expected that by studying the ways in which stressors affect children and families, we will find new and perhaps unexpected processes that can serve as the basis for novel approaches to prevention and intervention.