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UGA research uncovers cost of resiliency in kids
Date:5/30/2013

Athens, Ga. Children living in poverty who appear to succeed socially may be failing biologically. Students able to overcome the stress of growing up poor are labeled "resilient" because of their ability to overcome adversity, but University of Georgia researchers found this resiliency has health costs that last well into adulthood.

"Exposure to stress over time gets under the skin of children and adolescents, which makes them more vulnerable to disease later in life," said Gene Brody, founder and director of the UGA Center for Family Research.

Looking at a sample of 489 African-American youths from working poor families in south Georgia, Brody evaluated the overall poverty-related risks experienced by children annually at ages 11 to 13 as well as teacher-reported competence. Allostatic load, a measure of wear and tear on the body, was taken for each child at age 19. Allostatic load is a measure of stress hormones, blood pressure and body mass index.

The results, which were published May 30 in the journal Psychological Science, found kids 11 to 13 who experienced high levels of stress and whose teachers evaluated them as performing well emotionally, academically and socially had a high allostatic load at age 19.

"The children who are doing good at school, playing well with friends, have high self-esteem and don't have behavior problems are often thought of as beating the odds or being resilient in the face of adversity," said Brody. "We hypothesized maybe at one level they are resilient, but looking at their biology and asking what is the cost, we find a physiologic toll to attaining behavior resilience."

The body adapts to stressful situations through the activation of neural mechanisms, including the release of stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine, which have both protective and damaging effects on the body. Short-term, these hormones are important for adapting to stress, particularly stress associ
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Contact: Gene Brody
gbrody@uga.edu
706-425-2982
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert

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