Children living in poverty who appear to succeed socially may be failing biologically. Students able to overcome the stress of growing up poor are labeled “resilient” because of their ability to overcome adversity, but University of Georgia researchers found this resiliency has health costs that last well into adulthood.
“Exposure to stress over time gets under the skin of children and adolescents, which makes them more vulnerable to disease later in life,” said Gene Brody, founder and director of the UGA Center for Family Research.
Looking at a sample of 489 African-American youths from working poor families in south Georgia, Brody evaluated the overall poverty-related risks experienced by children annually at ages 11 to 13 as well as teacher-reported competence. Allostatic load, a measure of wear and tear on the body, was taken for each child at age 19. Allostatic load is a measure of stress hormones, blood pressure and body mass index.