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Socioeconomic Status & Early Experience: Interrelations with Stress Physiology & Executive Function

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Daniel Hackman, M.A., University of Pennsylvania

Socioeconomic status (SES) is correlated from an early age with cognitive performance, school achievement, and symptoms of psychopathology. However, each of these outcomes measures the combined function of multiple underlying cognitive and socioemotional systems. When different, specific neurocognitive systems are assessed individually in children, SES exhibits nonuniform effects in which the executive functions (EF) of prefrontal cortex show particularly robust SES disparities. This talk reviewed research from our lab and others showing this SES disparity in EF, including tests of cognitive control, working memory, and selective attention administered to children of different ages with behavioral, electrophysiological, and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging measures. The question of causality also was explored, summarizing the literature in this area showing that SES effects on EF are at least in part mediated by the developing child’s experience, with a focus on stress, parenting, and home environments. Lastly, we discussed methodological challenges as well as implications of this approach for basic cognitive neuroscience and interventions targeting SES disparities.

Hackman Presentation Slides (PDF - 610 KB)

Biosketch for Daniel Hackman, M.A.

Daniel Hackman is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Hackman, who also has clinical training, studies the effect of socioeconomic status on multiple indices of neurodevelopment, as well as the mechanisms that underlie this relationship, with a particular focus on executive function, parental nurturance, and stress physiology. He has worked in health policy and is interested in using neurodevelopmental approaches to enhance intervention and prevention strategies with at-risk children and adolescents.

Return to Executive Function in Preschool Children: Current Knowledge and Research Opportunities - Agenda page.

Last Reviewed: 11/30/2012
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