Poverty in childhood may last a lifetime

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Washington, Feb 23 (ANI): Kids raised in poverty in their first five years are more likely to feel its effects well into adulthood, shows a new study.

The finding, that childhood poverty causes lasting changes in the brain, highlights the importance of programs that specifically address the needs of the youngest children, researchers say.

"Early experiences are built into our bodies, for better or worse," said Jack Shonkoff of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego.

"If you begin with the experience of adversity and stress, those get translated into changes in brain function and structure that get translated into changes in cellular and neuronal connections, and most recently, down into lasting changes in how the DNA is expressed," said Thomas Boyce of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Greg Duncan of the University of California, Irvine, tracked lives of children born between 1968 and 1975 through adulthood. In the study, the researcher reviewed information on income, health, education and other factors, reports Discovery News.

After analyses Duncan found that for children in families earning less than the equivalent of 25,000 dollars a year in 2005, a 3,000-dollar increase in household income during the first five years of a child's life translated into 17 percent higher earnings as an adult, and almost a month's more working hours annually.

The effects lasted at least until age 37, and are independent of other factors that are typically associated with low income like education or poor health.

This association disappeared when Duncan looked at the effect of poverty during later years of childhood.

"We're focusing on the potential for early childhood as a particularly sensitive period," Duncan said.

"With all the different economic policies that we've developed, there's never been a distinction based on age. We haven't treated families with young kids differently. When we think about these, it's a good opportunity to think of privileging early childhood as being a particularly important period." (ANI)

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