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Eat or Heat? The Effects of Poverty on Children's Behavior

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In 2011, there were 46.2 million people in the US in poverty (15 percent of the population). The rate for children under 18 years of age was 22 percent, the highest of all age groups. Poverty is strongly linked to adverse socio-emotional outcomes and poor health in children, which influence adult socioeconomic advancement. It affects specific neurocognitive processes disproportionately such as working memory, cognitive control, and especially language and memory. Poor children are frequently exposed to household chaos, maternal depression, neighborhood violence, food insecurity and housing instability. They also experience little social support and have parents who are less responsive, more authoritarian and less involved in school activities than those of higher socioeconomic levels. Their diet is rich in sugar, which may contribute to behavioral disturbances. Children from a disadvantaged background have a poor ability to cope with stress and tend to show aggressive, withdrawn and anxious/depressive behaviors as well as poor academic outcomes. Dental professionals who care for poor children must understand they live under stressful physical and emotional conditions, which will impact their behavior in the dental office.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Associate professor and Chair and Program Director, Department of Pediatric Dentistry, at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Ill., USA. [email protected]

Publication date: March 1, 2014

More about this publication?
  • Pediatric Dentistry is the official publication of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry and the College of Diplomates of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. It is published bi-monthly and is internationally recognized as the leading journal in the area of pediatric dentistry. The journal promotes the practice, education and research specifically related to the specialty of pediatric dentistry. This peer-reviewed journal features scientific articles, case reports and abstracts of current pediatric dental research.
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