Children growing up in more disadvantaged neighborhoods – meaning those with poor housing quality, more poverty and lower levels of employment and education – show observable increases in brain activity when viewing emotional faces on a screen, according to our team’s new study. But importantly, we found that this association was true only when the adults in those neighborhoods also did not have strong shared norms about preventing crime and violence.
Our findings emphasize that where children live and the resources of others in the neighborhood may affect brain development. But neighbors may help protect children from these effects on the brain when they are able to build positive social norms about looking out for one another and preventing violence.
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