Poverty and Early Childhood Development

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Poverty is the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions. Poverty affects a child’s development and educational outcomes beginning in the earliest years of life. A child’s ability to profit from school has been recognized to play a role in poverty in the United States. The effect that poverty has on early childhood development is complex due to its range of diverse challenges for children and their families. More than 1 in 5 children in the U.

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S. are living in poverty. Roughly 6.8 million children or approximately 1 in 11 children in the United States live at 50 percent below the federal poverty line (Moore, Redd, Burkhauser, Mbwana, & Collins, 2009).

Sadly, the number is increasing. However, poverty affects everyone differently. Sometimes low-income families has its struggles based on one’s race and ethnic background. Among the racial and ethnic groups, African Americans had the highest poverty rate of 27.4 percent, Hispanics followed them at 26.6 percent and whites at 9.9 percent. Approximately 45.8 percent of young African American children under the age of 6 live in poverty compared to 14.4 percent of white children (Moore, Redd, Burkhauser, Mbwana, & Collins, 2009). The minority racial groups are more likely to experience poverty than whites. When thinking about how poverty affects early childhood development one must consider all factors of the child and their family.

Some will face more challenges than others. Poverty is a dynamic process for some families who are in and out of poverty. This paper will discuss how poverty directly affects achievement in early childhood development based on social and cognitive development. Social emotional problems of young adolescents are common. Research states that between 9.5 and 14.2 percent of children between birth and the age of 5 experience social emotional issues causing a negative impact on their function, development and school readiness (Cooper, Masi, & Vick, 2009). Specifically, young children living in low income neighborhoods are more likely to experience behavioral problems than children living in moderate or affluent neighborhoods. 

A child’s cognitive development could be affected from poverty due to health and nutrition, home environment, parental interactions with children, and parental health. Adolescents who live in poverty do not always get a well-balanced meal. Majority of the time parents are just making sure their child gets a chance to eat. In the article Nutrition, Brain Development and Cognition in Infants, Young Children and Elderly, Shahnaz Vazir and Sesikeran Boindala explains that malnutrition prevents children from reaching their full potential of growth and development (Vazir, 2016).

Severe malnutrition leads to growth restriction. It has been founded to affect cognitive development that cause irreversible damage. The brain functions best when the body has high-quality foods that contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Malnourished adolescents can cause delayed speech and literary difficulties. These obstacles can cause the adolescents to become further behind because of living in poverty without the resources and financial means to have a well-nourished meal. Another factor that affect adolescents’ cognitive development is the education level of their parents.

Although adolescents go to school, there is work that has to be done outside of school. Studies show that if parents education level is low they may not understand the work to help their children. Research shows that twenty-five percent of children in low income families have parents with less than a high school diploma. School readiness reflects a child’s ability to succeed bot academically and socially in a school environment. It needs physical well-being and proper motor development. Parents from disadvantaged backgrounds are not only more likely to have their babies born prematurely, but the children are also disproportionately at higher risk for school failure. Evidence suggests that the effects of poverty on children is influenced by the families’ behavior.

Families living in poverty have a tendency to limit their child’s linguistic environment by using simple structure commands. Also, low income families tend to use harsh parenting styles that are based on parental control rather than promote emotional development and social competence (Ferguson, Bovaird, & Mueller, 2007). Families living in poverty believe that being hard on their children will motivate them to not live in poverty when they get older or use them as the key to get out of the environment they are currently in.

In both cases pressure is added to the child where the child cannot focus on being a child and focusing on school because they have their parents they are trying to satisfy. Families that live in poverty or have a low socioeconomic status often move their children from location to location. The strain on the child cause stress because there is no stability. Once a child adjusts to one home environment they are moved to another. New school, new friends, new teachers, and new neighborhood. All these factors play a part during early childhood development. When adolescents trust a teacher and know that there is someone out there that cares about them and knows there living arrangements an attachment and bond is built that engages the child in learning.

Once a family has to move the adjustment is twice as hard because there is the fear of not making that connection again and not having that person that understands who they are and is willing to help provide resources for the child and their family. Children may also feel anxious or angry even about moving. This has direct impact on a child’s emotional development (Engle & Black, 2008). When a child leaves a familiar place the emotional development suffers because children become distrustful of their parents and others, may have insecurities about their safety and future. The figure below is a diagram that shows the direct effects of poverty on children (Engle & Black, 2008). This graph is a visual that shows what has been discussed about how the child is affected.

Poverty and family are two broad categories that affect the child. However, there is more to it than those two categories. Cognitive, social, and emotional development is affected. Parents education, transportation, and lack of food all tie in together and affect the child. According to the book The Unfolding Life: Counseling Across the Lifespan poverty or one’s social class is an environmental determinant. Environment determinant are considered external events and characteristics that are out of one’s direct control but has a significant influence on one’s growth and development (Horton – Parker & Brown, 2002). 

When dealing with this topic counselors have to tread lightly because anything said the wrong way could trigger and offend the child. In contrast to the example someone who is born into wealth or has wealth may fail to identify with the client and may reject or judge the client. Analysis of a person’s ethnic and cultural heritage is common in counselor in education. Counselors are encouraging to explore their own beliefs about poverty and consider how the assumption made affect their work with the potential client or clients. Th internal reflection is for counselors to understand their own biases and judgmental tendencies, so it doesn’t ruin the child and improving the social and cognitive development. The second part of the I-CARE model is cultivating the relationship.

The therapeutic relationship is widely regarded as the foundation of effective counseling. There is a chance that the bond between the counselor and adolescent or family may be compromised by the clients vulnerability to living in poverty. Those in poverty may feel uncomfortable and withhold information. The early childhood development is a critical stage because adolescents living in poverty want to protect there family and want to make sure they do not say anything wrong (Foss – Kelly, Generali, & Kress, 2017). Therefore information may be withheld from fear of what would happen if certain information was disclosed. Counseling can provide people living in low socioeconomic status with a safe space to uncover and resolve pain or feelings of shame. 

Barriers may change over time through the counseling sessions. The barriers range from transportation to counseling, lack of money, conflicting scheduling with work, and insufficient child care. To remove a barrier of providing transportation to and from counseling, providing in-home counseling, working around their schedule shows the clients that people care and are willing to help. Once a counselor gives the client physical access to the sessions the client may have gained your trust.

Because the client is going through obstacles living in poverty, sharing there story may take a while. Their story is emotional, sensitive, could be embarrassing etc. Therefore, it is important for counselors to tread lightly and be mindful of the things they say and do. The stress of living in poverty is divided into three categories: stress and strain, social isolation and inclusion and powerless.

Counselors need to understand that poverty causes these problems not only to the families but their children as well. As it affects the parents work, and social life causing isolation, remember that it does the same thing to their children, lack of concentration in school, isolation from friends, thinking about what they can do or is their living in poverty their fault. Consider all aspects when helping families and children living in poverty. At these times counselors must advocate for the needs of their clients. Building a relationship with the client and advocating for them proposes a way to access bot material and emotional needs of those living in poverty.

Advocating for early adolescents living in poverty and the affects it has on their development could increase employment opportunities or other resources for their families. The last part of the I-CARE model is expanding on the strengths. Clients living in poverty must possess a goal or skill that exceeds the skill or goal needed by people with greater financial privilege (Foss – Kelly, Generali, & Kress, 2017). Unreliable transportation, lack of food, managing multiple jobs are all survival skills. Use their skills to survive poverty as a foundation for building their strengths for tackling other challenges. This is important for early adolescents because they need the motivation that living in poverty does not define who they are.

Help them set goals whether it is improving on reading, and math skills, staying out of arguments, stop bullying, to stop isolating his self or herself etc. Establish goals that makes a change not only in their lives, but it also inspires their parents. A lot of times parents feel ashamed that their child must go through living in poverty. If their child can set goal and change, there perception into positivity will reduce the stress. Counselors will occasionally encounter clients who live in poverty and it is important to recognize the population counselors are working with.

The I-CARE model provides a way of considering how clients live in poverty and ways to approach the topic. This model gives framework for new and seasoned counselors in promoting a strength-based approach that can be used to support clients living in poverty. Attention has increased to the issues of socioeconomic inequality and the effects during early childhood development. Poverty occurring in early childhood causes developmental damage that affects other victims for years to come. Think of poverty as relative in which it assumes more than material deprivation.

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Poverty and Early Childhood Development. (2019, Feb 27). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/poverty-and-early-childhood-development/