Tag Archives: adolescence

By Karene Booker
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, June 23, 2014

Mendle

Mendle

Genetic factors related to how sexually mature a girl thinks she is influence her sexual behavior, above and beyond her actual physical development, reports a new study.

The study, published in June in Developmental Psychology (Vol. 50:6), is the first to directly test the link between pubertal timing and involvement in specific sexual behaviors, disentangling the genetic and environmental influences shaping adolescent sexual timing and behavior, the authors say. Their findings indicate that unique genetic factors influencing how mature girls think they are predict their engagement in dating, romantic sex and casual sex, whereas genetic factors associated with the timing of puberty predict the age when girls first become sexually active.

Sara Moore

Moore

“We’ve known for a long time that when kids go through puberty is strongly influenced by genetic factors, but there’s more to puberty than just biology,” says Jane Mendle, assistant professor of human development in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology and recipient of this year’s Young Investigator’s Award from the Society for Research on Adolescence.

“Dramatic social and environmental changes take place as kids transition into the new roles that come with sexual maturity; it turns out that how girls interpret and respond to these changes is also genetically influenced,” Mendle says.

“While environmental influences are extremely important in the dating and sexual outcomes we studied, we were surprised that genetic factors played such a large role,” Mendle adds.

“We suspect that genetically influenced traits such as sensation seeking and sociality could be at play in shaping how teens navigate the complex social environments surrounding puberty,” says Cornell graduate student Sarah Moore, who is first author on the study, “Pubertal Timing and Adolescent Sexual Behavior in Girls” with Mendle and K. Paige Harden from the University of Texas.

The researchers analyzed information from more than 900 female sibling pairs in a national longitudinal study of adolescent health and risk behavior. The pairs included identical twins, fraternal twins, half siblings, cousins and unrelated siblings, allowing the researchers to distinguish the effects of environment from heredity.

The team found that shared genetic influences on age of puberty and on how girls perceive their physical maturity were responsible for differences in the age at which girls became sexually active. Girls who matured earlier than their peers perceived earlier maturity and also initiated sex at an earlier age. Potentially, this is because genetic factors such as hormone levels influence age of menarche and also affect visible appearance and sexual desire, the authors say.

Genetic factors related only to girls’ perceived maturity, on the other hand, were responsible for their engagement in sexual behavior. Girls who perceived earlier maturity than their peers were more engaged in dating, romantic sex and nonromantic sex. Furthermore, the team found no association between girls’ involvement in specific sexual behaviors and genetic or environmental factors influencing the onset of puberty. In other words, pubertal timing itself is not a risk factor for casual sex as some prior research had suggested, say the authors.

“Our research shows that girls’ perceptions of their pubertal development are different from their actual pubertal development and drive different outcomes down the road,” Mendle concludes.

Karene Booker is an extension support specialist in the Department of Human Development.

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Jane Mendle
The Paper

By Susan S. Lang
Reprinted from the Cornell Chronicle, March 3, 2014

Mendle

Mendle

The age at which people become sexually active is genetically influenced – but not when they grow up in stressful, low-income household environments, reports a new study.

“Our study shows that environmental influences – rather than genetic propensities – are more important in predicting age at first sex (AFS) for adolescents from stressful backgrounds, who have few societal and economic resources,” says Jane Mendle, assistant professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology, pointing out that genes determine when teens begin puberty, which is a strong predictor of AFS.

“In fact, genes contribute only negligibly to AFS for these teens. It can almost be thought of as the environment ‘taking over’ the natural developmental trajectory that might occur in a less stressful background,” she adds.

For teens from financially advantaged backgrounds, on the other hand, the environment is much less influential and genes play a more important role in predicting AFS, Mendle notes.

The study, co-authored with University of Texas at Austin researchers, was published online in January in the journal Developmental Psychology.

While many studies have examined either genetic influences or environmental influences on AFS, “ours was one of the very first to consider gene-environment interactions in AFS, or how genetic expression may vary according to environmental circumstances,” Mendle says.

Using a sample of 1,244 pairs of identical twins (who share 100 percent of their genes) and non-twin full siblings (who share 50 percent of their genes) from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the researchers found that genetic influences on AFS were suppressed among low-socioeconomic-status and ethnic-minority teens compared with higher socioeconomic status and ethnic-majority youth. Father absence did not uniquely moderate genetic influences on AFS.

“And because we looked at identical twins and siblings, we could account for the importance of big family differences – and that enabled us to focus solely on understanding the environmental influences in AFS,” she says.

In addition to genetic influences, the use of twins and siblings in the study design accounted for shared environmental influences, such as religion or certain aspects of parenting, for siblings in the same family and for environmental influences that were unique to each youth.

Their findings “are broadly consistent with previous findings that genetic influences are minimized among individuals whose environments are characterized by elevated risk,” the researchers wrote.

“There has been a lot of dialogue and controversy in America on how to handle adolescent sexuality, and what programs may be most effective in reducing some of the outcomes associated with high-risk sexual behavior in teens,” Mendle says. “Many factors predict whether a teen is sexually active and when he or she transitions to sexual maturity. Our results help us understand in what contexts these factors will be malleable.”

The study, “Early Adverse Environments and Genetic Influences on Age at First Sex: Evidence for Gene x Environment Interaction,” co-authored by Texas researchers Marie D. Carlson and K. Paige Harden, received no outside funding.

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By Karene Booker
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, December 10, 2013

NeuroRisky12-9Risky choices – about sex, drugs and drinking, as well as diet, exercise, money and health care – pervade our lives and can have dire consequences. Now, a new book aims to help us understand the neural roots of bad decisions. “The Neuroscience of Risky Decision Making” (APA Books) synthesizes the research in this relatively young field for the first time, and introduces new models of brain function to explain and predict risky behavior.

“The harm caused by risky decision-making is enormous – understanding how the brain processes risks and rewards is the key to unraveling the mystery of irrational decision-making in real life,” said Valerie Reyna, professor of human development, director of the Human Neuroscience Institute in the College of Human Ecology and co-director of the Cornell MRI Facility.

“We anticipate this work will transform the next phase of research in the field and inform policy and practice innovations that can save lives and improve health and well-being,” said Reyna, who co-edited the volume with Vivian Zayas, associate professor of psychology at Cornell.

In the book, leading neuroeconomists, neuroscientists and social scientists discuss recent findings on why people take risks and how risky choices shift in different circumstances and across the life span.

An initial chapter by Reyna and Scott A. Huettel, neuroscientist at Duke University, sums up the research on how the brain responds during risky decision-making and introduces a new theoretical framework for explaining the mechanisms that drive behavior. The chapters that follow cover such topics as how risky decision-making changes dramatically from childhood to adolescence as a function of age-related changes in brain structure; the role of emotional regulation, self-control and personality differences in risky choices; and the social, cognitive and biological factors that shape risky behavior. The final chapter presents evidence for a new “triple” process model of how rewards and losses are evaluated in the brain, potentially resolving conflicts between current single and dual system theories.

The book is intended for researchers, students and professionals in the fields of social, cognitive and affective neuroscience; psychology; economics; law and public health.

This volume is part of the American Psychological Association’s Bronfenbrenner Series on the Ecology of Human Development, affiliated with the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, with authoritative contributions from leading experts in the field.

Reyna will discuss her new book in a “Chats in the Stacks” book talk Feb. 10 at noon in 160 Mann Library.

Karene Booker is extension support specialist in the Department of Human Development.

By Olivia M. Hall
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, September 17, 2013

From left, research assistants Meredith Moser '15, Natasha Herrick '15 and Leticia Vasquez '15 at Camp Bristol Hills, where they studied teen transitions this past summer - Mark Vorreuter

Summer camp is often about archery, swimming and singing around the fire. But this past summer, Natasha Herrick ’15, Leticia Vasquez ’15 and Meredith Moser ’15 were in for a different kind of camp adventure – their first academic research study.

Working with Jane Mendle, assistant professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology, the three served as research assistants for a pilot study to test expressive writing interventions with adolescent girls at 4-H Camp Bristol Hills in Canandaigua, N.Y.

The project, funded partly by Cornell’s Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, formed when Tim Davis, 4-H youth development program leader with Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Ontario County, discussed possible collaborations at the residential summer camp with Mendle.

“Everybody knows that puberty is rough on kids, as relationships with parents and peers are changing,” Mendle said. “Our lab, like a lot of others interested in puberty, tends to focus on the consequences of puberty – which can include depression, anxiety, externalizing or ‘acting out’ behaviors, poor self-esteem and body dissatisfaction. In this project we wanted to explore what happens if we intervene before teens get to that point.”

Mendle’s research assistants lived at Bristol Hills and used free slushies to recruit 45 girls, ages 11 to 13. (Boys will be included in a future study.) During six, weeklong camp sessions, the RAs gathered the girls after lunch on four days for an exercise in expressive writing, which Mendle describes as “a brief, focused intervention, in which people write about times of change in their lives.”

After filling out a standard psychological questionnaire on the first day, the girls spent 20 minutes daily writing about their relationships with their families, friends and the changes taking place in their own bodies

Though the data have yet to be fully analyzed – Mendle is planning to send out a follow-up questionnaire in a few months – the research partners are pleased with the outcomes to date of this first-time collaboration.

“4-H camps put a real emphasis on how the camp experience will develop the whole child,” said Davis. “This year we were really able to pilot how we can work with faculty to do research at the camp while greatly benefiting our campers.”

Mendle hopes to use the pilot data to write a grant proposal that will expand the study to include a control group and show more clearly how the writing intervention provides positive benefits to adolescents.

The undergraduate assistants, for their part, found their interest in working with adolescents confirmed. “This research helped to further convince me that kids in this age range and young adults are the focus I’d like to pursue later in life if I ever get my own private practice as a therapist,” said Vasquez.

Herrick, Moser and Vasquez assisted with the study as part of the CCE Summer Internship Program, which provides opportunities for Human Ecology and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences students to support research and outreach projects in communities around the state. The RAs also assisted in a separate study on social exclusion among adolescents, led by Vivian Zayas, Cornell associate professor of psychology.

On Tuesday, Sept. 24, they and other CCE summer interns will present posters about their work at a reception, 5-6:30 p.m., in the Statler Ballroom.

Olivia M. Hall is a freelance writer.

By Karene Booker
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, February 13, 2013

Valerie Reyna

Reyna

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded $1.7 million to Cornell to enhance understanding of why adolescents are prone to taking risks.The study, which will compare differences in the brains of teens and adults when faced with risky decisions, will be the first to use the Cornell MRI Facility, a new, state-of-the-art center for neuroscience and other fields of research in Martha Van Rensselaer Hall.

The project will bring together a team of economists, psychologists and neuroscientists to examine decision-making processes in adolescents and adults and shed light on competing theories about how the teen brain works.

"Research suggests that adolescents differ from adults in emotional reactivity, motivation and self-regulation, but substantial ambiguities remain about how these factors determine adolescents' risky decision-making," said Valerie Reyna, principal investigator for the grant, professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology and co-director of the Cornell MRI Facility. "Our research will disentangle these key causal factors to better understand, predict and ultimately reduce adolescents' unhealthy risk-taking."

The team will answer unresolved questions about how adolescents' responses to rewards might differ from responses to losses or negative consequences and how desires, strong emotions or the way risks are presented may change responses to risk and to reward. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques performed on the 3 Tesla MRI scanner at the Cornell MRI Facility, the researchers will also look at how the adolescent brain reacts differently from the adult brain when making decisions about risks.

The universitywide facility is the newest addition to Cornell's imaging resources and will provide detailed structural and functional images for a broad range of scientific studies involving humans, small animals, plants and biomedical materials. Physicist Wenming Luh is the technical director of the facility.

Other investigators on the grant include William Schulze, the Kenneth L. Robinson Professor of Agricultural Economics and Public Policy; David Dunning, professor of psychology; Ted O'Donoghue, professor of economics; Brian Wansink, the John Dyson Professor of Consumer Behavior; Barbara Ganzel, research scientist in human development; all from Cornell in Ithaca; and Henning Voss, associate professor of physics in radiology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

Karene Booker is an extension support specialist in the Department of Human Development.

By Ted Boscia
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, December 4, 2012

Mendle

Mendle

Teens who date and are sexually active are known to be at elevated risk for depression, but why those associations exist is poorly understood.

Now a new Cornell study has found that casual sexual "hookups" increased a teenager's odds for clinical-level depression nearly threefold, whereas dating and sexual activity within a committed relationship had no significant impact. The effects held true for boys and girls, though younger teens (13-15 years old) who had so-called "nonromantic sex" faced substantially greater risks for depression. In contrast, dating alone was not linked to depressive symptoms, nor was sexual activity within a stable, committed relationship.

Researchers led by Jane Mendle, assistant professor of human development in Cornell's College of Human Ecology, said the study provides evidence that "context is key" when trying to understand how teen relationships and sex affect their well-being. The research is published online in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

"Many historical and media perspectives have presented adolescent sexuality as an indicator of problematic or even socially deviant behavior," Mendle said. "But this study and other recent findings are showing that's not the case, and adolescent dating and sexuality can be viewed as normal developmental behavior."

Using a novel behavioral genetics approach that compares siblings growing up in the same home, Mendle and her co-authors analyzed responses from 1,551 sibling pairs ages 13-18 from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a nationally representative sample of U.S. high school students initiated in the mid-1990s. Among other topics, teens answered questions about their mental health and dating and sexual history. Nearly two-thirds of the sample's youth had dated, and two-thirds were virgins.

By comparing siblings in their study, the authors could control for family and environmental influences that might also raise one's risk for depression.

"We designed the study to give us a purer way to isolate many of the factors that could be contributing to depression," Mendle said. "It allows us to compare specific types of social activities -- in this case, dating and romantic and nonromantic sex -- to see their overall effect."

The paper notes that not all the associations at play can be unraveled, however. For instance, some teens who have depressive symptoms or clinical depression may be more likely to engage in casual sexual behaviors.

Mendle, a licensed clinical psychologist who studies how such developmental processes as puberty and sexual maturation influence teens' emotional growth, believes adolescent sexuality is important to study because it is closely tied to how well people transition into adulthood.

"One of the hallmarks of adolescence is the formation of romantic relationships, and we know that what happens in adolescence is strongly related to your psychological, physical and financial well-being for years to come," Mendle said. "Findings like this can help shape the dialogue and public debate about how to best support teen sexual health, psychological development and other areas."

The study co-authors include Sarah Moore, a Cornell graduate student in the field of human development; Joseph Ferrero, formerly a graduate student at the University of Oregon; and Paige Harden, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Texas.

The study was funded in part by Cornell.

Ted Boscia is assistant director of communications for the College of Human Ecology.

By Ted Boscia
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, December 10, 2012

Exner-Cortens

Teenagers in physically or psychologically aggressive dating relationships are more than twice as likely to repeat such damaging relationships as adults and report increased substance use and suicidal feelings years later, compared with teens with healthy dating experiences, reports a new Cornell study.

The findings suggest the need for parents, schools and health care providers to talk to teenagers about dating violence, given its long-reaching effects on adult relationships and mental health, the researchers say.

Published online Dec. 10 in the journal Pediatrics, the paper is the first longitudinal study of a nationally representative sample to show links between teen dating violence and later multiple adverse health outcomes in young adults. The authors found that teen girls and boys reported aggressive experiences in relationships nearly equally, with 30 percent of males and 31 percent of females in the study showing a history of physical and/or psychological dating violence.

"Teens are experiencing their first romantic relationships, so it could be that aggressive relationships are skewing their view of what's normal and healthy and putting them on a trajectory for future victimization," said lead author Deinera Exner-Cortens, M.A. '10, a doctoral student in the field of human development in the College of Human Ecology. "In this regard, we found evidence that teen relationships can matter a great deal over the long run."

Exner-Cortens and her co-authors analyzed a sample of 5,681 American heterosexual youths ages 12-18 from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health who were interviewed as teens and approximately five years later as young adults about their dating experiences and mental and behavioral health. Participants were asked if a partner had ever used insults, name-calling or disrespect in front of others; had sworn at them; threatened violence; pushed or shoved them; or thrown objects that could hurt them. About 20 percent of teen respondents reported psychological violence only, 9 percent reported physical and psychological violence, and 2 percent reported physical violence alone.

In young adulthood, females who had experienced teen dating violence reported increased depression symptoms and were 1.5 times more likely to binge drink or smoke and twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts. Males who had experienced teen dating violence reported more anti-social behaviors, were 1.3 times more likely to use marijuana and twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts. The study controlled for pubertal development, child maltreatment history and a range of socio-demographic factors.

"In addition to clarifying potential long-term impacts of teen dating violence victimization, our study highlights the importance of talking to all adolescents about dating and dating violence," Exner-Cortens said. "This includes prioritizing teen dating violence screening during clinical visits and developing health care-based interventions for responding to adolescents who are in unhealthy relationships, in order to help reduce future health problems in these teens."

Study co-authors are John Eckenrode, Cornell professor of human development and director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, and Emily Rothman at the Boston University School of Public Health. The research was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Ted Boscia is assistant director of communications for the College of Human Ecology.

By Ted Boscia
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, December 4, 2012

Whitlock

Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) -- deliberately harming one's body through such acts as cutting, burning or biting -- is a primary risk factor for future suicide in teens and young adults, finds a new longitudinal study of college students led by a Cornell mental health researcher.

The paper, published online Dec. 4 in the Journal of Adolescent Health, describes how NSSI, thought to be a coping mechanism for some individuals in distress, may also open the door to more dangerous actions by lowering one's inhibitions to suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

"While we can't conclude that self-injury leads to later suicide attempts, it is a red flag that someone is distressed and is at greater risk," said lead author Janis Whitlock, Ph.D. '03, a research scientist in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR). "This is important because self-injury is a relatively new behavior that does not show up much in the literature as a risk factor for suicide. It also suggests that if someone with self-injury history becomes suicidal, having engaged in NSSI may make it much easier to carry out the physical actions needed to lethally damage the body."
 
In a longitudinal study of 1,466 students at five U.S. colleges, Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious Behavior in Adolescents and Young Adults, and co-investigators found NSSI to precede or coincide with suicidal thoughts and behaviors in slightly more than 60 percent of cases observed.

Participants, most in their early 20s, answered a confidential mental health survey annually for three years that assessed their history of NSSI and suicidal thoughts and behaviors, along with demographic information and common protective and risk factors. Researchers found that, independent of other risk factors, people who had self-injured were nearly three times as likely to attempt or consider suicide, while those with a history of five or more instances of self-injury were four times more likely to do so. The study has implications for NSSI treatment and suicide prevention. Previous studies have shown as many as 20 percent of college students and 25-35 percent of teens have a lifetime history of NSSI. Given its prevalence, Whitlock noted that physicians and others who work with youth should be better trained to spot such behaviors and assess for suicide risk.

Of many protective factors considered, the study identified two that appear to help lower the suicide risk in young people with a history of NSSI. Participants who had confided in their parents about their distress and those who perceived meaning in life were significantly less likely to show suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

"Meaning in life as a protective factor is not so surprising, because many who attempt suicide report that they feel a deep and often chronic lack of life meaning," Whitlock said. "However, considering that we studied a college population, it's a surprise that the parents emerged as having such a powerful influence in young adults' mental well-being, especially since we looked at respondents' relationships with all kinds of people, including therapists. Treatments for people at risk for suicide should focus on strengthening these relationships when feasible."

Cornell co-authors on the paper include John Eckenrode, BCTR director and professor of human development, and Amanda Purington, BCTR research support specialist.

The research was supported by a grant from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Ted Boscia is assistant director of communications for the College of Human Ecology.

By Karene Booker
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, August 6, 2012
 
Evans

Evans

Such behavior problems in adolescence as aggression and delinquency are linked to chronic stress in early childhood, which interferes with children's development of self-control, reports a Cornell study published online in April in Developmental Psychology. 

To better understand the well-documented link between poverty and poor outcomes for children, the researchers analyzed data on risk factors, maternal responsiveness and child characteristics in 265 adolescents and their parents. 

The longitudinal study found that early exposure to the multiple risks linked with poverty -- such as poor living conditions, separation from family, single parenting and violence -- negatively affects children's self-regulatory abilities, critical skills needed to plan and control attention and behavior toward one's goals. These risks compromised children's self-regulation directly as well as indirectly when mothers could not provide sensitive, nurturing care. 

Lower self-regulation is, in turn, linked to more "externalizing" problems in adolescents, such as aggression and delinquency. "Internalizing" problems, such as depression and anxiety, were not similarly affected. 

"Our research examines the additive effects of multiple stressor exposures, rather than the typical focus on single variables such as divorce, abuse or housing," said Gary W. Evans, the Elizabeth Lee Vincent Professor of Human Ecology in Cornell's College of Human Ecology. He conducted the study with lead author Stacey N. Doan, Ph.D. '10, assistant professor of psychology at Boston University, and Thomas Fuller-Rowell, Ph.D. '10, a Robert Wood Johnson postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

"One of the things that chronic stress seems to do in children is damage the body's ability to regulate the physiological response system for handling environmental demands with consequences for physical and mental health," Evans said. "By teasing apart two major subtypes of psychological well-being, internalizing and externalizing, we have shown that their predictors operate differentially." 

In other words, internalizing and externalizing problems may have different causes and be influenced by different factors. Temperament may be more predictive of internalizing problems, while environmental risk factors are more associated with externalizing problems, the authors say. 

"Overall, our results suggest that while it may not always possible to increase income or reduce all risk factors, by improving parenting skills or child self-regulation abilities we may be able to ameliorate some of the effects of poverty on children's mental health," Doan said. 

This research was funded by the W.T. Grant Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Socioeconomic Status and Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholars Program. 

Karene Booker is an extension support specialist in the Department of Human Development.

By Karene Booker
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, August 9, 2012
 
Evans

Evans

 Childhood adversity is linked to chronic stress in adolescence, setting the stage for a host of physical and mental health problems, finds a new Cornell study published online in July in Psychological Science.

The longitudinal study found that the greater proportion of childhood spent in poverty, the greater number of risks children were exposed to, and this was linked to increased markers of chronic stress by the time the children were 17.

For their analysis, the researchers used survey data on 173 children that included information about family income and exposure to such risks as housing conditions, family turmoil and violence. Children's blood pressure, overnight levels of stress hormones and body mass index were measured to assess physiological changes, known as allostatic load, which are associated with chronic stress.

"While prior work has shown that childhood poverty is linked to elevated chronic stress, as indicated by allostatic load, this study adds two critical ingredients: We demonstrate this in a prospective, longitudinal design which makes the evidence stronger, and we show that the poverty-allostatic load link is explained in part by low-income children's exposure to cumulative risk factors," said lead author Gary W. Evans, the Elizabeth Lee Vincent Professor of Human Ecology in Cornell's College of Human Ecology. He conducted the study with Pilyoung Kim, Ph.D. '09, now an assistant professor at the University of Denver.

"In other words, one reason why poverty leads to chronic stress is because of the confluence of risk factors poor children encounter," Evans said.

The cumulative effect of these risks can add up to levels of stress capable of damaging the developing brain and body and setting a trajectory for future disorders, the authors said.

"Poverty often leads to chaotic circumstances that make it more difficult for children to get what they need to develop optimally," Evans said. "Chaos makes it difficult to sustain predictable and increasingly complex exchanges between caregivers and the growing child. Furthermore, this chaos occurs across many of the settings in which the children's lives are embedded, such as neighborhoods and schools.

"Based on what we're learning about the harmful and long-term effects of chronic stress on child development, we need to broaden our thinking about how we can improve the life prospects of children at risk and we need to make these investments early in life before the adverse effects of stress are encoded in the developing child," he said.

This research was funded by the W.T. Grant Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Socioeconomic Status and Health.

Karene Booker is an extension support specialist in the Department of Human Development.