Early Life Stress and the Environmental Origins of Disease: A Population-based Prospective Longitudinal Study of Children in Rural Poverty (Family Life Project)

Duration: 2016 - Present
Funding: New York University Subcontract
Principal Investigator: Lisa Gatzke-Kopp


At present we have insufficient understanding of how early life stressors affect neurodevelopment, learning, social development, and physical and mental health in childhood and adolescence. The Family Life Project (FLP) utilizes a large representative sample of children living in rural Pennsylvania and North Carolina. FLP oversamples children in poverty to understand the effects of adversity on development. Early in this study, parents and their children were recruited at birth and have been continuously studied throughout childhood.

Funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), this study, now in its 3rd five-year funding period, is studying the effects of early stress and how relationships and the quality of later environments may increase or buffer the effects of early adversity. Investigators are focusing on associations between early life stress and neurodevelopment in areas of executive functioning, emotion regulation, attention control, readiness for school, and school progress during the elementary years.

This project will expand our understanding of how these early factors affect health risks in areas such as neurodevelopment, chronic illness and obesity. In the current phase of the FLP study, children will be seen at ages 16 and 18, and the study will collect biological and behavioral data to test the hypothesis as it pertains to the effects of early stress on outcomes later in life.

Research Team