Disadvantage can ensnare families for generations. Existing studies have identified the effects of childhood adversity on neurodevelopment in decrements in cognitive and social outcomes. This timeframe, however, may be too constricted, assiduously focusing on intra-generational effects, while ignoring inter-generational determinants. Considering a child's own adverse exposures, without noting experiences of adversity in that child's parents, may obscure intergenerational effects. Within an established, well-characterized, inter- generational and disadvantaged cohort, we aim to determine key factors influencing the cycle of disadvantage in which so many families get caught for generations. Our outcome of focus is neurodevelopment as indexed by executive functions (EF) and MRI measures of related neural substrates. EF dysfunctions are key determinants of subsequent social and occupational challenges. We also examine protective factors that may contribute to breaking this cycle of disadvantage and yield favorable neurodevelopmental outcomes. We would bring to the ECHO consortium a multi-generation, population?based sample of 2,491 Puerto Ricans living in the South Bronx, NY and San Juan, PR. The first generation of the cohort (G1) was assessed prospectively at 3 times points in childhood/early adolescence (ages 5-13) and once in late adolescence/early adulthood (ongoing). When ECHO is launched, G1 will be in early adulthood, and just beginning to have their own children (Generation 2 or G2 Probands). Our cohort is thus optimally poised to examine the effects of adversity during early childhood using a prospective design. We will assess G2 Probands including all new births during the study period (Prenatal/Birth Cohort, n~650) and all G2 Proband children born prior to the start of ECHO (Child Cohort, ages 3-10, n~830). We will use neuroimaging and behavioral assessments to characterize the influence of many forms of adverse exposures (e.g., physical abuse, neglect, parental mental illness). We will examine how one generation's experience of adversities may affect the development of the next, and how different sources of exposure, those experienced by one's parents as well as those a child faces on his or her own, impact neurodevelopmental outcomes. Our multidisciplinary team brings expertise in the epidemiology of disadvantaged populations (MPIs Duarte & Canino), fetal origins of health and disease (MPI Monk), and developmental neuroscience (MPI Posner). In addition to our specific aims, our study will enrich the ECHO consortium by providing biospecimens including DNA, placenta, cord blood, and deciduous teeth. These specimens will allow the ECHO consortium to investigate the influence of genetic and epigenetic factors as well as chemical exposures during early development within a high-risk, but understudied, population. In sum, our investigative team, the uniqueness of our cohort, and the novelty of our focus on intergenerational influences offer distinct contributions to the ECHO project both in terms of the specific aims of our proposal and to the larger goals of the ECHO consortium.

Public Health Relevance

Puerto Rican adults are at high risk for different types of negative outcomes, such as school drop out, mental disorders and high risk behaviors, compared to those from other Latino subgroups. Fundamental neurobiological processes may be at the root of how a host of negative outcomes are perpetuated from one generation to another. Identifying protective process of relevance for disadvantaged populations will inform intervention strategies for breaking the cycle of disadvantage in high risk populations living in different contexts.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Office of The Director, National Institutes of Health (OD)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-PSE-H (53)R)
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Gillman, Matthew William
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New York State Psychiatric Institute
New York
United States
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