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Intergenerational Transmission of Poverty: How Low Socioeconomic Status Impacts the Neurobiology of Two Generations

  • Rebekah Tribble
  • Pilyoung KimEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Emerging Issues in Family and Individual Resilience book series (EIIFR)

Abstract

Living in poverty may be accompanied by multiple stressors and negative health outcomes for both children and their mothers and fathers. Parents living in poverty are more likely to exhibit harsh parenting caused by the stress of living in poverty and/or development of mental disorders like depression which hinders one’s ability to parent most effectively. Exposure to harsh parenting and poor quality of parental care as a child increases the likelihood of children as adults providing similar low quality parental care to their offspring. This transgenerational transmission of poverty provides insight into how best to perform interventions for families living in poverty, as teaching protective factors to just children or parents may not be as effective when taking into account the family unit. Thus, a two-generational approach to intervention, providing coping skills and teaching protective factors to both children and their parents may be more effective than only one member of the family receiving this intervention. A discussion on the brain and the neurobiological impacts of poverty on children, their parents and parenting is explored along with how research into this intervention design could establish a framework for positive family adaptation in the form of family resilience.

Keywords

Poverty Parenting Children Brain Coping Family resilience 

Notes

Glossary

Allostatic load

The physiological consequence of chronic exposure to fluctuating or heightened neural or neuroendocrine responses that result from repeated or chronic stress resulting in “wear and tear” on the body.

Amygdala

An almond-shaped mass of gray matter in each cerebral hemisphere of the brain involved in experiencing emotions.

Coping

The process of adapting to stress that includes conscious attempts to manage emotions to face and deal with problems, stress, difficulties, or challenges in an effective and successful manner.

Cortisol

A steroid hormone produced by the adrenal cortex involved in metabolism and helps us regulate stress within the body.

Cumulative stress

The accumulation of mental and/or emotional strain/tension resulting from multiple adverse or very demanding circumstances (e.g., heavy workload, multiple frustrations).

Depression

A mood disorder, also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, which causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. It affects how you feel, think, and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.

Hippocampus

Curved elongated ridges on the floor of each lateral ventricle in the brain thought to be involved in the formation, storage, and processing of memories.

Income-to-needs ratio

The ratio of family or unrelated individuals’ combined income relative to the appropriate poverty threshold. Ratios below 1.00 indicate that the income for the family or unrelated individuals is below the poverty line, whereas a ratio above 1.00 indicates income above the poverty line.

Intergenerational poverty

Poverty induced by the socially and/or economically challenged background of a person’s parents.

Intergenerational transmission of parenting

Process by which unintendedly or purposively an earlier generation psychologically influences parenting attitudes and behavior of the next generation.

Neural sensitivity

The fraction of neurons that show positive responses to a stimulus.

Positive parenting

Warm, responsive, sensitive, and consistent parenting that provides boundaries and contingent limits for children in a low-conflict family environment.

Poverty

The state or condition of lacking a socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.

Socioeconomic disadvantage

Individuals who have limited access to materials and/or resources which impacts their ability to participate in society.

Socioeconomic status

Social standing of an individual or group, often measured as a combination of education, income, and occupation.

Telomeres

Repetitive sequences of DNA that do not code for proteins, but function as caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes.

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of DenverDenverUSA

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