The Biological Residue of Childhood Poverty

Child Dev Perspect. 2013 Jun 1;7(2):67-73. doi: 10.1111/cdep.12021.


Children raised in poverty are prone to physical health problems late in life. To understand these findings and address the scientific challenge they represent, we must formulate integrative conceptual frameworks at the crossroads of behavioral and biomedical science, with a strong developmental emphasis. In this article, we outline such a framework and discuss research bearing on its validity. We address how childhood poverty gets under the skin, at the level of tissues and organs, in a manner that affects later disease risks. We also tackle questions about resilience; Even with lengthy exposure to childhood poverty, why do only a subset of people acquire diseases? Why are some individuals protected while others remain vulnerable? Maternal nurturance might be a source of resilience, buffering children from the long-term health consequences of poverty. We conclude with research priorities.