The Effects of Stress on Children in Low Income Families

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Though they might not be able to articulate it, children feel the effects of poverty-related stress. Whether they are listening in on parents’ conversations about money worries or they aren’t getting enough to eat before school, they are negatively impacted by circumstances outside their control. Poor nutrition and stress have been shown to adversely effect a child’s capacity for learning.


Stress and Learning

A recent study at the University of Rochester found there is a connection between stress experienced by children in low-income families and their ability to learn. The study looked at 201 low-income, mother-child pairs and tracked the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in children from 2 to 4. Both elevated and low levels of cortisol in the children resulted in lower than average cognitive ability at age 4. Those children with moderate cortisol levels had average cognitive functioning.


Published in the Child Development Journal, the study determined that children in low-income homes, particularly those with family instability and harsh, disengaged mothers, can have adverse levels of cortisol in their bodies. Earlier studies connected adverse cortisol levels as having damaging effects on brain structure and brain function. Further, the study indicated that if a child is already cognitively behind before they begin school, they are unlikely to catch up.

Research demonstrated that preventative interventions can assist in improved parenting that may lead to the children’s cortisol levels, paving the way for improved learning ability.


Stress, Behavior and Bad Discipline

Research has begun finding that for many children, stress hurts them biologically. Disciplinary issues are not always the result of bad behavior but may be rooted in a child’s biological response to toxic stress. The current culture of discipline and punishment in our country that attempts to quash negative impulses appears to be making the situation worse. Ironically, data from both the Department of Justice and Department of Education has reported that serious behavioral issues in schools have been on the decline in recent decades. At the same time, teachers have increased disciplinary actions. Even more disheartening is evidence that shows students in urban schools from low-income backgrounds experienced more disciplinary issues than those found in higher-income schools.

As part of Miami’s inner-city community, we are committed to the people we serve. We want to level the playing field medically for the kids of our community by giving them a chance to feel good mentally and physically.

Bring your children to our walk-in clinic at  Family Medical Clinic Kendall for primary care appointments. Located at 9000 SW 137th Avenue, Suite 111, in Miami, we offer a walk-in clinic, urgent care and a lab & diagnostics. Call us today (305) 603-7824.

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