Children with Smaller Brains

Children who grow up in poor families may have smaller brains than middle and upper class families.  But experts say that good parenting may help them overcome that disadvantage.

In a story on, Andrew Seaman reports that researchers found that kids who grew up poor tended to have smaller volumes in key parts of their brains—the hippocampus and amygdala volumes. Those areas are partly responsible for regulating memory and emotions.

Dr. Joan Luby at the Washington University School of Medicine is the study’s lead author.  She and her colleagues wanted to figure out what might be responsible for the differences.

They found kids tended to have smaller brains when they had experienced stressful life events or when their parents were hostile or unsupportive.

Dr. Luby says that kids from poor families may not experience as many negative consequences if they have parents who are sensitive, nurturing, attentive and emotionally available.

Unfortunately low-income parents are often lacking in resources and simply trying to make ends meet.

Luby points out that further study is needed to find out what interventions—such as early preschool programs, may encourage a healthy environment for the developing brain.

She says, “Biology is very much influenced by the environment. The question is what period might be the time when the brain is most sensitive to influence.”

I can’t help but wonder—what role could the Christian church play in coming alongside these struggling families?

To learn more about this study, check the American Academy of Pediatrics website at


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