What areas of childhood development are affected by poverty?

Written by laura wood
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What areas of childhood development are affected by poverty?
A child who grows up in poverty will struggle to develop at the same rate as a child from a middle-class family does. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

A family that lives in poverty will struggle in numerous ways. The impact on a child living in poverty can be significant in his development from childhood to adulthood. There are several areas of childhood development, including physical health and academic ability, affected by poverty.

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Physical Health

A serious effect of poverty on child development is on physical health. There is a higher increase of child mortality among children of lower socioeconomic status, according to Columbia University's School of Public Health. This is believed to be due to an increased risk in accidental death and a lack of early intervention of sickness. Many poor families can't afford private health coverage and if they do, the coverage can be inadequate. This means that children won't have the resources for the early detection and treatment of health problems.

Parents who only earn enough money to live in poor neighbourhoods and can't afford to maintain their home put their children's physical health at risk. According to Columbia University's School of Public Health, poor children are at risk of asthma, higher blood lead levels and respiratory illness.

Communication Skills

There are studies to support the argument that children from low-income families develop communication skills at a much slower rate than those from middle-class families, according to University of Pennsylvania's Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. A child from a middle-class family has twice the amount of words in his vocabulary than a low-income child. The child in poverty also can have a low attention span in school, can struggle to remember details and may lack the ability to plan as well as a child from a wealthier family. The University of Pennsylvania's Center for Cognitive Neuroscience states the main reasons for this lack of communication development are malnutrition, increased stress, a lack of educated parents and a toxic environment.

Academic Development

A child from a low-income family is twice as likely as a middle-class child to drop out of school, be suspended or expelled or to repeat a grade, according to the website StateUniversity.com. They are also more likely to have attention and learning problems. There are several reasons for this. Parents who are poor are more likely to have worse emotional and physical health, which can affect a child emotionally and cognitively. The parent is less likely to be able to provide a stimulating home environment for the child to be encouraged to study. Also, living in a poor neighbourhood with high levels of crime and low community resources (such as a public library and community centre) can impact a child's academic development.

Mental Health

According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, a child from a low-income family is more likely to develop behavioural problems that negatively impact their mental health development. Mental behavioural problems include ADHD, depression, anxiety, aggression and mood swings. Research shows that almost 50 per cent of the behavioural problems a low-income child develops can be prevented with appropriate parenting, states the National Center for Children in Poverty. However, low-income parents can themselves be suffering from mental disorders and not be able to give their children the attention they need.

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