Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Psychology

First Advisor

Martha J. Farah

Abstract

Childhood socioeconomic status (SES) is often studied alongside a number of related constructs, such as subjective SES, race/ethnicity, and childhood maltreatment. At times, these and other constructs are considered together as measures of ‘cumulative risk’ or ‘early life stress.’ However, little is known about their similar or distinct impact on development. The present research was aimed at better understanding the ways that childhood SES and related constructs predict a range of developmental outcomes. Chapter 1 examined the relations between childhood SES, childhood maltreatment and the structure of the hippocampus and amygdala in young adulthood. Childhood maltreatment, but not childhood SES, predicted smaller hippocampal volumes. The research in Chapter 2 examined the relationship between childhood SES, race, and parent and teacher report of ADHD symptoms in two samples of school-aged children. Results showed that these relationships differed depending on whether parents or teachers were reporting symptoms: lower SES and African American race were associated with higher levels of symptoms as reported by teachers, but not by parents. Chapter 3 examined objective SES and subjective SES as predictors of academic achievement in a diverse sample of high school seniors. Analyses revealed that objective SES and subjective SES showed opposite relationships with achievement: while adolescents from higher SES backgrounds, as measured objectively, showed higher achievement on a range of measures, those who perceived themselves as higher SES earned lower grades and standardized test scores and were less likely to be enrolled full-time in college after high school. Collectively, these results suggest that childhood SES and related experiences show distinct relationships to a range of behavioral and neural outcomes.

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