Poverty is a widespread problem among children in the United States with one in fine children living in need. While the immediate issues, such as winter clothes and nutritional food, are usually those focused on, poverty has many negative long term impacts on children. The longer a child lives in poverty, the higher the chances they will suffer economic hardship and unemployment as an adult. You can take a look at more statistics on childhood poverty in America in an article by the President of the Children’s Defense Fund on HuffPost here: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/marian-wright-edelman/the-high-moral-and-econom_b_5852130.html.
There are a number of health issues that can stem from living in poverty as a child. Operation Warm lists 5 major health consequences that can follow children in need into adulthood.
- Heart disease in adults can result from childhood poverty as it stems from the lack of access to healthy meals, proper attire and health care.
- “Learned helplessness” or the feeling that one has no power to control their circumstances is a behavioral patter which is developed in children living in poverty and can follow them into adulthood.
- A consequence of the lack of supportive adults in the lives of many impoverished children is toxic stress. Toxic stress results from prolonged activation of stress response systems in the body and brain which occurs when children experience strong, frequent or prolonged adversity.
- Our self-esteem tends to be formed during childhood, and self-esteem is often low in impoverished children. Self-confidence has important health effects on children as without it they are more susceptible to other health problems and unhealthy habits.
- Conditions of poverty such as noise, substandard housing, and family instability can be harmful to brain development.
Beyond the health effects, poverty also impact’s children’s likelihood of succeeding in school. Statistics from the Urban Institute say that almost 30 percent of poor children do not complete high school, which contributes to the cycle of poverty as their future economic success and employability are severely limited. Operation Warm also named 5 ways poverty negatively affects children’s ability to get a good education:
- Poor children have less preparation for school as their parents, on average, have less time to read with them, are unable to send their children to pre-school and are less stable home environments.
- Children living in high-poverty areas are three to four times more likely to be chronically absent (miss more than 10 percent of school a year). These children have to deal with daily struggles such as caring for siblings, higher rates of disease, violence in the community and frequent family resettlement in new places to find jobs.
- Early childhood poverty often coincides with lower educational achievement.
- Children raised in poor households often don’t learn healthy, appropriate emotional responses to everyday situations as they often lack the core guidance needed. This is reflected in troublesome behavior in schools which also hurts school performance.
- A study by the American Journal of Public Health showed kids and teenagers who come from poor families were more likely to be bullied. Additionally, schools with higher economic inequality have higher rates of bullying.
Childhood poverty is a broad issue which has a variety of causes and effects, making it very hard to combat as a small nonprofit. At Dress Up For The Day we are hoping to help poor children improve their self-confidence and feel more comfortable in schools. In the hope that it improves their educational achievement, keeps them in school longer and helps them to have more economic opportunities in the future.