The Psychological Impacts of Poverty, Digested

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From BPS Research Digest: “For a ‘rich’ country, by global standards, the UK has an awful lot of people who are not. Fourteen million people — one fifth of the population — live in poverty. Of these, four million are more than 50% below the poverty line, and 1.5 million are classed as destitute, unable to afford even basic life essentials.

For children who grow up in poverty, there are impacts that go way beyond the fact of material shortages. ‘Children experience poverty as an environment that is damaging to their mental, physical, emotional and spiritual development,’ notes UNICEF  …

… A 2009 study published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, of 9- and 10-year-olds who differed only in their socioeconomic status, found striking differences in activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is critical for complex cognition. The PFC response of many of the poor children in response to various tests resembled that of some stroke victims. ‘Kids from lower socioeconomic levels show brain physiology patterns similar to someone who actually had had damage in the frontal lobe as an adult,’ commented lead researcher, Robert Knight, professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.”

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2 COMMENTS

  1. more quality research out of the UK. 🙂

    what I like (personally) : the ill effects of poverty are being taken more seriously by those in power, those with resources, those with credentials.

    what I don’t like (personally) : its the damn psych establishment, again. poverty is bad because now the ‘experts’ say so, and they’ve run their fancy tests to make it a health issue.

    I’d really like to see poverty presented (again) as a moral issue, and also a social problem. If the end results are more and better anti-poverty programs and maybe, just maybe a thorough analysis of the horrors of neoliberalism, then…perhaps, as a practical matter, getting the psych-brigade involved will prove to be beneficial. having said that…

    what’s wrong with society, now, that people cannot just say poverty is morally repugnant and unacceptable, especially in affluent nations?

  2. “….. found striking differences in activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is critical for complex cognition. The PFC response of many of the poor children in response to various tests resembled that of some stroke victims. ‘Kids from lower socioeconomic levels show brain physiology patterns similar to someone who actually had had damage in the frontal lobe as an adult,’ commented lead researcher, Robert Knight, professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.”

    There we go, neuro science proving “damage”.
    Perhaps it’s not “damage”, perhaps people that live in huts in 3rd world countries have brains that look different than the brain of a western neuroscientist.

    We obviously need to test poverty by testing brains. Must be easy to get the okay from low income parents.
    Isn’t it a bit discriminatory to test kids in poverty? Lets have some online pictures of the whole process of selection, questionnaires, signature requirements, the language used to coerce parents into agreement,
    just that whole ugly process where finally a kid that knows nothing about what is going on, to be subjected to yucky researchers with slimy hands.
    We DO NOT need to USE little ones to prove that poverty is not a good thing in developed nations.
    The results of poverty often cause second rate child rearing, and are often generational.
    Everyone knows this WITHOUT scans.
    We don’t even know if we should call it “damage”, or if we should call it “adaptation”.

    The whole spiel is always geared to making everything, all brain change sound like damage or illness.

    Just keep giving people drugs. Perhaps we can leave generations in poverty and create a neuron builder, a cortex building drug, and if it creates harmful effects, we can create new drugs.
    But yes, thanks for the thorough science. I can hear the dingbats on the street touting science, it’s great advancements of how far…..
    “Hey, did you know, and yes it has been proven that kids have shrunken brains from lack of money, and so you see Mabel, it’s no wonder little johnboy is on ADHD drugs, he behaves like a little brat, but then his brain is damaged, poor thing. They tested it, he has a shrunken prefrontal thingy, the little monkey. Thank gawd there are pills, but still, poor little monkey. Isn’t it amazing Mabel, how far we came? I mean years ago, kids would have got a strap, the pills are so much more humane.”

    Well I guess neuropsychiatry is that slow transition. A transition from old falsities into new ones, to keep old ones alive. But we are not aware, we are simply radicals, the fringe, those oddballs and conspiracy theorists.

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