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Parenting with PACEs. PACEs science & stories. Trauma-informed change.

School, stress and poverty: a psychobiological reflection []


By Pam Jarvis, Photo: Runar Pederson Holkestad/Creative Commons, Yorkshire Bylines, January 30, 2022

As time goes by we see more and more initiatives funnelled into education to ‘close the gap’ between children who live in families with incomes that place them into the ‘disadvantaged’ category. Yet again and again we find that very modest returns leave politicians disappointed.

Instead, we should be looking at the environments that children inhabit before they even enter the school gates. The effects of stress upon young children have been most famously outlined in Felitti’s ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences’ research, at the turn of the 20th century. Families who live in socio-economically deprived conditions frequently experience a circular and complex set of stressors as the household experiences ongoing poverty and its associated insecurity. In 2009, Jensen proposed an effect that he dubbed ‘Cognitive Lag’:

“Children raised in poverty … are faced daily with overwhelming challenges that affluent children never have to confront, and their brains have adapted to suboptimal conditions in ways that undermine good school performance”.

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