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Brain, behavior, and immunity


OBJECTIVES: Children who grow up in more socioeconomically disadvantaged homes experience greater levels of inflammation and worse asthma symptoms than children from more advantaged families. However, recent evidence suggests that certain family-level factors can mitigate health disparities associated with socioeconomic status (SES). In a sample of youth with asthma, we investigated the potential buffering effects of maternal involvement and warmth on SES disparities in asthma-related immune responses, assessed via glucocorticoid resistance (GR) of immune cells.

METHODS: One hundred and forty-three youth (10-16 years of age) with asthma completed measures of maternal involvement and warmth, and their primary caregivers reported their levels of education, income, and financial stress. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from youth's blood were isolated, cultured, and assayed to determine mitogen-stimulated (PMA/INO + Etho) and mitogen/hydrocortisone-stimulated (PMA/INO + Cort) levels of two Th-2 cytokines (i.e., interleukin-5, interleukin-13) and one Th-1 cytokine (i.e., interferon-γ). GR was calculated by subtracting log-transformed cytokine concentration in the PMA/INO + Etho samples from log-transformed cytokine concentration in the PMA/INO + Cort samples.

RESULTS: Both maternal involvement and warmth moderated the indirect pathway from family SES to GR of Th-2 cytokines via financial stress. Specifically, we found that low family SES was associated with elevated GR of Th-2 cytokines via increased financial stress among youth reporting low levels of maternal involvement and warmth, but not among those reporting high levels of maternal involvement or warmth.

CONCLUSIONS: These results highlight the protective role of maternal involvement and warmth in health-related biological processes modulated by family SES among youth with asthma.

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ePub ahead of print



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