Psychology Magazine

Research on Consequences of Low Socioeconomic Status Becoming a Small Industry.

By Deric Bownds @DericBownds
It is becoming hard to keep up with research on biological and behavioral consequences of low socioeconomic status - one of MindBlog's subject threads since its beginning in 2006. I pass on abstract of two recent samples of work. Gary Evans on childhood poverty and adult psychological well-being:
Childhood disadvantage has repeatedly been linked to adult physical morbidity and mortality. We show in a prospective, longitudinal design that childhood poverty predicts multimethodological indices of adult (24 y of age) psychological well-being while holding constant similar childhood outcomes assessed at age 9. Adults from low-income families manifest more allostatic load, an index of chronic physiological stress, higher levels of externalizing symptoms (e.g., aggression) but not internalizing symptoms (e.g., depression), and more helplessness behaviors. In addition, childhood poverty predicts deficits in adult short-term spatial memory.
And, Gillian and Nettle in an upcoming target article for Behavioral and Brain Science titled "The Behavioural Constellation of Deprivation: Causes and Consequences":
Socioeconomic differences in behavior are pervasive and well documented, but their causes are not yet well understood. Here, we make the case that there is a cluster of behaviours associated with lower socioeconomic status, which we call the behavioural constellation of deprivation. We propose that the relatively limited control associated with lower socioeconomic status curtails the extent to which people can expect to realize deferred rewards, leading to more present-oriented behavior in a range of domains. We illustrate this idea using the specific factor of extrinsic mortality risk, an important factor in evolutionary theoretical models. We emphasize the idea that the present-oriented behaviours of the constellation are a contextually appropriate response to structural and ecological factors, rather than pathology or a failure of willpower. We highlight some principles from evolutionary theoretical models that can deepen our understanding of how socioeconomic inequalities can become amplified and embedded. These principles are that: 1) Small initial disparities can lead to larger eventual inequalities, 2) Feed-back loops can operate to embed early life circumstances, 3) Constraints can breed further constraints, and 4) Feed-back loops can operate over generations. We discuss some of the mechanisms by which socioeconomic status may influence behavior. We then review how the contextually appropriate response perspective that we have outlined fits with other findings about control and temporal discounting. Finally, we discuss the implications of this interpretation for research and policy.

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