Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Infants in poverty show different physiological vulnerabilities to the care-giving environment

Date:
February 19, 2013
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Some infants raised in poverty exhibit physical traits that make them more vulnerable to poor care-giving, according to new research. The combination of physiological vulnerability and poor care-giving may lead these children to show increased problem behaviors later in childhood.

Some infants raised in poverty exhibit physical traits that make them more vulnerable to poor caregiving, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The combination of physiological vulnerability and poor caregiving may lead these children to show increased problem behaviors later in childhood.

For infants growing up in poverty, the ability to adapt and regulate -- both biologically and behaviorally -- in response to various environmental pressures seems to be critical for successful development.

To explore why some at-risk children wither while others bloom, researcher Elisabeth Conradt and colleagues examined data from a longitudinal study that followed women at risk for parenting problems and their infants. Conradt, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at the Brown Center for the Study of Children at Risk, conducted the study as a graduate student at the University of Oregon.

To assess infants' vulnerability, the researchers looked at their respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) -- a physiological marker of the degree to which infants are attuned to their environment -- when the infants were five months old. They also looked at infants' attachment style and level of problem behaviors at 17 months.

The results revealed interactions between physiological vulnerability and environmental context in relationship to infants' developmental outcomes.

Infants who had high baseline RSA at five months and who were raised in an environment that promoted disorganization displayed more problem behaviors than did infants who had a high baseline RSA and were raised in an environment that fostered security.

These results support the idea that poverty is not a uniform stressor. High-RSA infants raised in disorganized caregiving environments faced the double whammy of an insensitive caregiver and poverty. For these infants, high baseline RSA may have increased their sensitivity to negative parenting experiences, leading them to develop coping strategies that became problematic later in childhood. Indeed, in this study, these infants fared the worst, showing problem-behavior scores that were far above clinical risk indices.

But poverty did not have the same effect for high-RSA infants who had nurturing caregivers. Physiological susceptibility -- in the form of high baseline RSA -- may have enabled these infants to be more attuned to, and affected by, a sensitive caregiver. The data suggest that these infants had the lowest levels of problem behavior, falling below community norms reported in other studies.

Infants with low baseline RSA showed higher than average problem behaviors, regardless of caregiving environment. The researchers speculate that, for these infants, poverty may be a more powerful predictor of problem behavior than the immediate parenting context.

Conradt and colleagues argue that this research may have important implications for efforts to identify the children who are most vulnerable to developing problem behavior given their biological and environmental risk factors early in life.

Along with Conradt, co-authors include Jeffrey Measelle and Jennifer Ablow of the University of Oregon.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. E. Conradt, J. Measelle, J. C. Ablow. Poverty, Problem Behavior, and Promise: Differential Susceptibility Among Infants Reared in Poverty. Psychological Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1177/0956797612457381

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Infants in poverty show different physiological vulnerabilities to the care-giving environment." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130219141016.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2013, February 19). Infants in poverty show different physiological vulnerabilities to the care-giving environment. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130219141016.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Infants in poverty show different physiological vulnerabilities to the care-giving environment." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130219141016.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A recent study links apathetic feelings to a smaller brain. Researchers say the results indicate a need for apathy screening for at-risk seniors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Couples Who Sleep Less Than An Inch Apart Might Be Happiest

Couples Who Sleep Less Than An Inch Apart Might Be Happiest

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study by British researchers suggests couples' sleeping positions might reflect their happiness. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins