By Petula Dvorak
"Poverty trumps mistreatment, absolutely," said Sheryl Brissett-Chapman, executive director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda.
She explained that being extremely poor grinds down a child, that poverty gets into the brain and under the skin. Literally, actually.
Studies show that increased levels of cortisol, a chemical produced in the body as a result of stress, can seriously affect a child's brain development, stunting memory and disrupting learning patterns.
The stress of living in poverty gnaws at children. Poor kids who took part in one study were found to have elevated levels of cortisol in the morning. When the children showed up at a high-quality, small-group day-care center, where they bonded well with their teacher, the cortisol levels dropped. By afternoon, they were similar to the morning levels of their middle-class counterparts.
So, essentially, being poor costs a kid at least half a day in the classroom just to get the brain back to normal.
For more on the subject, see Intergenerational Trauma = PTSD and Only Whites Blame "Intergenerational Trauma"?