How Income And Education Affect Your Child’s Brain

Children who grow up in a lower socioeconomic status may see an impact in their brain development, according to new findings.

More bad news for children born into or growing up in poverty: A new study associates factors such as income and education with brain development.

Titled “Family income, parental education and brain structure in children and adolescents,” the study was published online today by Nature Neuroscience.

The 1,099 participants in the study, between ages 3 and 20, were evaluated based on demographic and developmental history questionnaires and high-resolution brain MRIs.

From the press release:

Among children from the lowest-income families, small differences in income were associated with relatively large differences in surface area in a number of regions of the brain associated with skills important for academic success, ” said first author Dr. Kimberly G. Noble, director of the Neurocognition, Early Experience and Development (NEED) Lab and assistant professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center…

Conversely, among children from higher-income families, incremental increases in income level were associated with much smaller differences in surface area. Higher income was also associated with better performance in certain cognitive skills

The study states that the relationships between income and brain surface area were most prominent in the parts of the brain that control language, reading, executive functions and spatial skills.

Researchers at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) and Columbia University Medical Center led the study, which is the largest study of its kind, according to a press release issued today by CHLA.

Science magazine reports that researchers have already established that children of higher socioeconomic status perform better on tests of IQ, reading, language and executive function (“the ability to focus attention on a task”), or have larger or more developed brains in key areas.

Past studies, however, have insufficiently distinguished between factors like socioeconomic status, race, income and education.

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Stacy Johnson

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