Family income buffers the relationship between childhood adverse experiences and putamen volume

Max P. Herzberg, Laura Hennefield, Katherine R. Luking, Ashley F.P. Sanders, Alecia C. Vogel, Sridhar Kandala, Rebecca Tillman, Joan Luby, Deanna M. Barch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Adverse experiences and family income in childhood have been associated with altered brain development. While there is a large body of research examining these associations, it has primarily used cross-sectional data sources and studied adverse experiences and family income in isolation. However, it is possible that low family income and adverse experiences represent dissociable and potentially interacting profiles of risk. To address this gap in the literature, we examined brain structure as a function of adverse experiences in childhood and family income in 158 youths with up to five waves of MRI data. Specifically, we assessed the interactive effect of these two risk factors on six regions of interest: hippocampus, putamen, amygdala, nucleus accumbens, caudate, and thalamus. Adverse experiences and family income interacted to predict putamen volume (B = 0.086, p = 0.011) but only in participants with family income one standard deviation below the mean (slope estimate = −0.11, p = 0.03). These results suggest that adverse experiences in childhood result in distinct patterns of brain development across the socioeconomic gradient. Given previous findings implicating the role of the putamen in psychopathology-related behaviors, these results emphasize the importance of considering life events and socioeconomic context when evaluating markers of risk. Future research should include interactive effects of environmental exposures and family income to better characterize risk for psychopathology in diverse samples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-39
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental Neurobiology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


  • adverse experiences
  • brain structure
  • early childhood
  • poverty
  • psychopathology


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