How poverty affects human brain and behavior and what is "immigrant paradox": scientists shared a surprising answer
Scientists shared their findings on the psychological consequences of living with limited financial resources and low socioeconomic status compared to those with higher incomes. Psychological research has shown that poverty stretches from one generation to the next, driving people into a socioeconomic hole from which it is almost impossible to escape.
The reason for the endless cycle of poverty is its significant impact on human cognitive development, especially in childhood. Such data was demonstrated by scientists during the first International Congress of Psychological Science, according to the journal of the Association of Psychological Science.
Numerous studies have shown that people who face stressors such as low family income, discrimination, limited access to health care, a tendency to crime, and other conditions of low socioeconomic status are prone to physical and mental disorders, low levels of education, and low IQ.
In addition, if a person faces poverty in childhood, his or her cognitive processes are more severely impaired. Memory is especially vulnerable, in particular, due to the inability of parents to respond and support their children in stressful conditions of poverty. The researchers led a developmental study in which a group of children was followed for more than 20 years. When the children were 4-8 years old, research assistants came to their homes to record various details of their upbringing. For example, they looked at cognitive stimulation at home, such as the presence of books or educational toys. They interviewed parents and observed their interactions with their children. They paid special attention to how much warmth and care each child received from their parents.
The research showed that a large amount of cognitive stimulation at an earlier age improved children's speech development. Scientists have found that a high level of parental care at the age of 4-8 helps improve a child's memory in middle school.
"Surveys have shown that a very common belief about why poor people are poor is that they don't try hard enough, they are irresponsible, make bad decisions, don't go to school, etc. But neurons don't deserve to be judged or praised. They do not waste effort. They do not have good or bad behavior. They simply behave in accordance with the laws of the natural world," the scientists explained.
Research also shows that poverty in early childhood can be more harmful than poverty in later childhood. The first 5 years of life are the most sensitive period for the devastating effects of economic deprivation. The study showed that low family income is more associated with difficult circumstances in adulthood when it occurs before the age of 5, rather than in later childhood.
The researchers also focused much of their research on children of immigrants and found that first-generation immigrant adolescents had lower rates of juvenile delinquency, better test scores and academic performance, and more positive attitudes towards their U.S.-born peers.
However, the researchers added that these "benefits" steadily decline in subsequent generations, which is called the "immigrant paradox." This means that the children and grandchildren of immigrants will have health and behavioral problems if the way they think and behave is not changed.
The researchers found that rich people generally avoided expensive loans, but poor participants were more likely to take out a loan, borrow too much, finish the study faster, and ultimately leave the lab with less money when the experiment was complete. This behavior is often attributed to a lack of control. The researchers noted that policies and services aimed at helping the poor should take into account the impact of poverty on cognitive function. This may include simplifying complex job applications and other forms of interaction in society.
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