Disadvantage can ensnare families for generations. Existing studies have identified the effects of child-
hood 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 de-
terminants. 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 func-
tions (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 ad-
versity during early childhood using a prospective design. We will assess G2 Probands including all new births
during the study period (Prenatal/Birth Cohort, n~440) and all G2 Proband children born prior to the start of
ECHO (Child Cohort, ages 3-10, n~870). 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 Du-
arte & 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.