Getting Under the Skin: Children’s Health Disparities as Embodiment of Social Class

Social class gradients in children's health and development are ubiquitous across time and geography. The authors develop a conceptual framework relating three actions of class–material allocation, salient group identity, and inter-group conflict–to the reproduction of class-based disparities in child health. A core proposition is that the actions of class stratification create variation in children's mesosystems and microsystems in distinct locations in the ecology of everyday life. Variation in mesosystems (e.g., health care, neighborhoods) and microsystems (e.g., family structure, housing) become manifest in a wide variety of specific experiences and environments that produce the behavioral and biological antecedents to health and disease among children. The framework is explored via a review of theoretical and empirical contributions from multiple disciplines, and high-priority areas for future research are highlighted.