Poverty and crime affect the development of a child’s brain even before birth

(ORDO NEWS) — American researchers have shown that unfavorable conditions can affect the development of the brain of a child in the womb.

The children of women who experienced poverty and crime during pregnancy had smaller volumes of gray and white matter, the number of convolutions and connections between brain regions.

Poverty and crime can negatively affect a child’s health and development. Now scientists from Washington University in St. Louis (USA) have come to the conclusion that some environmental factors can influence the structure and function of the child’s brain even during fetal development.

The study involved infants born between 2017 and 2020, before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Scientists assessed their brain development during the first few weeks of life using MRI scans.

The results of the study showed that the children of mothers living in poverty tended to be born with smaller brains than those of women with higher incomes.

This applies to both gray and white matter. In addition, the children of poor mothers showed fewer convolutions, which indicated the immaturity of their brains.

At the same time, the psychosocial stress experienced by women during the period of expectation of a child did not cause such significant consequences.

Reduced volume and number of convolutions of the infant’s brain can adversely affect its further development.

After that, scientists investigated the effect of the crime rate of the area in which the pregnant woman lived on the development of the brain of newborns. It turned out that women living in more dangerous areas gave birth to children with weaker connections between brain structures.

Including changes affected the departments involved in the processing and control of emotions. Thus, living in a high-crime area had a more specific effect on brain development than poverty.

Weakened connections between brain regions during infancy can affect a child’s mental development and his ability to adapt to society.

Reducing the number of poor people and reducing crime are widely recognized public policy and public health goals.

According to scientists, protecting future mothers from a dangerous environment and financial support will improve the development of their children.

At the same time, existing social programs aimed at helping people from a disadvantaged environment should also include measures designed to help even before a person is born.

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