Why are children of poor parents more likely to be poor as adults than other children? Early-childhood adversities resulting from social structures and relationships impact children's bodily systems and brain development through recurrent stress. These socially patterned biological processes influence social reproduction. Social support and interventions can prevent or compensate for the early biological effects of toxic social environments. This article integrates sociological, neuroscience, epigenetic, and psychological evidence to build a model of early-childhood developmental mechanisms contributing to intergenerational poverty. This model captures ways in which social structures interact with biological characteristics and systems to shape life trajectories.


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