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On November 24, 2019 the all-party House of Commons resolved to reduce the number of children living in low income households by the year 2000. Unfortunately, since then, although a number of interventions have been delivered, child and family inequality continues to persist throughout BC. This is particularly troubling given that inequality has both short and long term impacts on child health and well-being.
Perhaps most worrisome, living in a low income household is an early life experience that can become biologically imprinted in children, in part by turning genes “on” or “off” — a process referred to as epigenetics. Epigenetic changes associated with these experiences can last all the way into adulthood and may be linked to chronic health conditions later in life.
In fact, research has shown that household income is related to asthma, obesity, depression, and educational outcomes in children, as well as their risk of developing chronic diseases later in life. Strikingly, household income in childhood is often a better predictor of health in adulthood than current income level. For example, one study of adults living in Vancouver found that an individual’s childhood economic circumstances was a stronger predictor of their metabolic health in adulthood than their current economic circumstances.
The good news is that Researchers have identified a number of factors that can protect children from adverse life events including the hardship associated with low household income. For example, our research shows that the presence of warm, nurturing and supportive adults, be it parents, grandparents, teachers, or members of the larger community, can be protective during development.
2020 Tweens, Teens, Tech, and Mental Health: Coming of Age in an Increasingly Digital, Uncertain, and Unequal World
Authors: Dr. Candice Odgers (SEC Affiliate Member) and Dr. Michael Robb
Common Sense Media