B3082 - Adaptations to Inequality and the Perpetuation of Disadvantages An Evolutionary Developmental Approach - 16/03/2018

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Callie Burt | University of Washington, Department of Sociology (King)
Esther Walton
Title of project: 
Adaptations to Inequality and the Perpetuation of Disadvantages: An Evolutionary Developmental Approach
Proposal summary: 

Socioeconomic disparities in health across the life-course are well-documented, long-standing, and consequential. Research suggests that a significant proportion of the social gradient in health is due to SES differences in health-risk behaviors. Scholarship investigating the underlying mechanisms whereby lower SES increases health-risk behavior points to the mediating role of risk-increasing (or ‘riskogenic’) psychosocial schemas. Specifically, evidence suggests that social context and experiences in development, which are patterned by one’s social position, calibrate psychosocial orientations, including impulsivity or self-control, sensation seeking, and hostile views of relationships, which influence health-risk behaviors and health outcomes. Although the past decade has seen a spate of published GE-health research, few studies have focused on the role of G-E interplay in shaping psychosocial schemas as mechanisms through which SES adversity shapes health disparities. This project will investigate the effects of SES adversity on changes in psychosocial schemas, conceived as socially-calibrated and genetically-influenced endophenotypes which link SES adversity to increased health risk-behaviors. Additionally, although we know that social experiences “get under the skin” to have enduring effects on health outcomes, we lack knowledge on the biological pathways through which such effects persist. Thus, second, and more innovatively, we will engage with the nascent field of social epigenetics to examine DNA methylation (DNAm) as a biological mechanism through which SES-adversity calibrates psychosocial schemas. In this project, we will investigate the DNAm patterns underlying psychosocial adaptations to SES adversity that increase health-risk behaviors, building on work that identifies DNAm as an important molecular underpinning of experience-dependent changes in cognitions, decision-making, and behavior.

Impact of research: 
The rationale for this research is the need to better understand what, when, and how social adversity increases ‘riskogenic’ psychosocial schemas influencing health-risk behaviors in the context of G-E interplay. In addition to enhancing scientific knowledge, findings may identify biomarkers of exposure or response to SES adversity to enhance risk assessments or targeted interventions to improve health. Findings will enhance knowledge on G-E interplay and can improve theorizing about the role of G-E interplay at different developmental periods, especially questions about adolescence as a second sensitive period for (epigenetic) change. e the groundwork for an R01 application longitudinally tracking the effects of SES and racial-ethnic disadvantage in an ethnic-racial minority sample.
Date proposal received: 
Wednesday, 14 March, 2018
Sociogenomics, Behaviour - e.g. antisocial behaviour, risk behaviour, etc., Statistical methods, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity, Cognition - cognitive function, Statistical methods, Development, Environment - enviromental exposure, pollution, Epigenetics, Genetics, Parenting, Psychology - personality, Sex differences, Social science