Parental socioeconomic status is linked to cortical microstructure and language abilities in children and adolescents

Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2022 Aug;56:101132. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2022.101132. Epub 2022 Jul 4.


Gradients in parental socioeconomic status (SES) are closely linked to important life outcomes in children and adolescents, such as cognitive abilities, school achievement, and mental health. Parental SES may also influence brain development, with several magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies reporting associations with youth brain morphometry. However, MRI signal intensity metrics have not been assessed, but could offer a microstructural correlate, thereby increasing our understanding of SES influences on neurobiology. We computed a parental SES score from family income, parental education and parental occupation, and assessed relations with cortical microstructure as measured by T1w/T2w ratio (n = 504, age = 3-21 years). We found negative age-stabile relations between parental SES and T1w/T2w ratio, indicating that youths from lower SES families have higher ratio in widespread frontal, temporal, medial parietal and occipital regions, possibly indicating a more developed cortex. Effect sizes were small, but larger than for conventional morphometric properties i.e. cortical surface area and thickness, which were not significantly associated with parental SES. Youths from lower SES families had poorer language related abilities, but microstructural differences did not mediate these relations. T1w/T2w ratio appears to be a sensitive imaging marker for further exploring the association between parental SES and child brain development.

Keywords: Adolescence; Childhood; Parental socioeconomic status; Structural cortical development; T1w/T2w-ratio.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Parents
  • Social Class*
  • Young Adult