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HHS Healthbeat

Poverty, parenting, and kids’ brains

HHS HealthBeat (November 12, 2013)
Poverty, parenting, and kids’ brains

From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, I’m Ira Dreyfuss with HHS HealthBeat.

Researchers say poverty can interfere with a child’s brain growth – but that attentive parenting can offset at least some of the damage. Child psychiatrist Joan Luby of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis saw this in data on brain scans of 145 8- to 12-year-olds.

Luby says poor children tended to have smaller hippocampuses, important in learning and memory – possibly from stresses of poverty on the developing brain. But she says her study indicates the main driver was how nurturing parents were:

“It suggests that even in circumstances of great adversity, supportive parenting can be an important protective factor.”

The study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Learn more at healthfinder.gov.

HHS HealthBeat is a production of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I’m Ira Dreyfuss.

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