Children Being Raised in Poverty
Although most prevalent in developing nations, poverty-stricken populations can be found in every part of the world. Affecting not only physical aspects of life, poverty also impairs a child’s cognitive and psychological responses.
With the number of children living in poverty on the rise even in wealthy nations, it is imperative to understand the long-term physical and psychological implications that are associated with living in a chronic state of scarcity and need. Many experts now recognize that poverty directly affects outcomes relating to such conditions as homelessness, poor nutrition, inadequate child care, unsafe neighborhoods, food and water safety, and lack of educational resources. These are some of the deplorable conditions plaguing poverty-stricken children today.
With the number of children living in poverty on the rise even in wealthy nations, it is imperative to understand the long-term physical and psychological implications that are associated with living in a chronic state of scarcity and need
Unlike an occasional financial crunch or economic hardship, a lifestyle of indigence is characterized by the ongoing shortage of basic necessities like healthy food, safe drinking water, adequate shelter, education, and health care. Although there are more people living in poverty in developing countries, there are destitute populations found in every region of the world.
Physical Aspects of Poverty
Through a growing body of research, experts are now realizing the significant relationship between poverty and the lack of physical well-being. Although poverty has been long-associated with low birth-weight babies, obesity, and general poor health, the National Center for Health Statistics now reports that children living in poverty are five times more likely to contract an infectious disease and die from it. In addition, poor children have higher levels of lead in their blood and are more likely to exhibit symptoms of lead poisoning due to long-term exposure to lead in sub-standard housing conditions. Lead poisoning has been known to induce learning disabilities through problems with speech, hearing, and behavior, all of which can be irreversible if not addressed early.
How Poverty Affects Academic Achievement
Besides the fact that poorer children are usually demographically located in areas with schools that have fewer resources, impoverished living conditions can significantly affect cognitive development in children. Well documented studies indicate that chronic stress associated with an environment of scarcity impairs a child’s memory, as well as their ability to concentrate, focus, and learn. In addition, negative thinking patterns emerge and adversely affect self-esteem and confidence levels. These psychological blueprints for failure are then handed down to the next generation and play a large part in perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
Perhaps the most devastating consequences suffered by impoverished people are not the material deprivations, but the multidimensional results such as the lack of cognitive ability, or lack of social skills; and, the multi-generational effects such as negative mindsets that are inherited, span a person’s lifetime, and then seed new progeny. The constellation of issues surrounding poverty makes it difficult to find a solution which addresses simple cause and effect. Poverty remains a growing social concern and continues to be an enemy that threatens a large portion of our population, especially our next generation.
G. J. Duncan & J. Brooks-Gunn (Eds.), Consequences of growing up poor (New York: Russell Sage FoundationFuture of Children, Volume 7, Number 2, Summer/Fall 1997, “The Effects of Poverty on Children,” Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and Greg J. Duncan