Home Medizin Gewalt in der Nachbarschaft beeinträchtigt die Gehirnentwicklung von Kindern

Gewalt in der Nachbarschaft beeinträchtigt die Gehirnentwicklung von Kindern

von NFI Redaktion

A study published by the American Psychological Association suggests that living in neighborhoods with high levels of violence can impair children’s development by altering the way a part of the brain detects and responds to potential threats, potentially leading to deteriorating mental health and other negative consequences.

However, the study published in the journal of Developmental Psychology suggests that caring parents can help protect children from these detrimental effects.

„Decades of research have shown that growing up in neighborhoods with pronounced disadvantage can have adverse effects on children and adolescents‘ schooling, behavior, and mental health. And newer research is beginning to show that this occurs in part by influencing the developing brain. However, less is known about how neighborhood disadvantage ‚gets under the skin‘ and affects brain development.“

Luke W. Hyde, PhD, co-author of the study from the University of Michigan

Hyde and his colleagues hypothesized that one pathway could be through the amygdala, the center of the brain’s stress response system, involved in socioemotional functions, threat processing, and fear learning. The amygdala is sensitive to facial expressions, and earlier research has found that children who have been abused or neglected by family members, for example, show increased amygdala reactivity when viewing faces with negative, fearful, or neutral expressions.

To investigate whether neighborhood violence also affects children’s amygdala reactivity, the researchers analyzed data from 708 children and adolescents aged 7 to 19 from 354 families recruited to participate in the Michigan Twins Neurogenetic Study. Most were from neighborhoods with above-average levels of poverty and disadvantage, as measured by the US Census Bureau.

Youth participated in a series of surveys where they were asked about their exposure to community violence, their relationship with their parents, and their parents‘ parenting styles.

Overall, the researchers found that participants living in more disadvantaged neighborhoods reported being more exposed to community violence. Moreover, those reporting more frequent exposure to community violence showed greater amygdala reactivity to fearful and angry faces. The results held true even when taking into account individual family income, parent education, and other forms of violence exposure at home.

„The results make sense as it is adaptive for youth to be more prepared to respond to threats when living in a more dangerous neighborhood,“ said Hyde.

However, the researchers also found that caring parents seemed to break the link between neighborhood violence and amygdala reactivity in two ways.

„Although living in a disadvantaged neighborhood, children whose parents were more caring and engaged were less likely to be exposed to community violence, and for those who were exposed, a more caring parent attenuated the effects of violence exposure on the brain,“ said Gabriela L. Suarez, PhD student in developmental psychology at the University of Michigan and co-author of the study.

In conclusion, the researchers believe that the study highlights the need for structural solutions to protect children from the adverse effects of community violence. It also emphasizes how strong, positive parents can promote the resilience of children and adolescents facing adversity.

„Parents can be important buffers against these broader structural inequalities, and therefore, working with parents can be a way to contribute to protecting children while working on measures to reduce the concentration of disadvantages in neighborhoods and the risk of community violence,“ said co-author Alex Burt, PhD, from Michigan State University.

Source:

American Psychological Association

Journal Reference:

Suárez, GL, et al. (2024) Violence in the community as a mechanism linking neighborhood disadvantage with amygdala reactivity and the protective role of parental care. ​​Developmental Psychology. doi.org/10.1037/dev0001712.

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