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Childhood development is both a biological and psychological period that occurs to every human from birth to adolescence. The transition from dependency to autonomy characterizes this period. The crucial factors that affect this period include parental life, prenatal development, and genetics among others. Childhood period is immensely significant for the child’s future health and development. Parents, health professional, and educators who work collectively make efforts to ensure proper child development. Such efforts are essential in making sure that children grow to reach their full potential. However, it is not easy to raise a child in modern times, because certain factors emerge to ruin this pivotal stage in life. Poverty is a serious problem that can immensely affect child’s development (Horgan, 2007). Children are susceptible developmentally to problems in the earliest period of their life. Poverty is not a selective issue, and it can affect all ages in any place, but its impact is worse when exposed to children at their early development stage. Some of the effects of poverty encompass areas such as stress, health, parenting, child literacy, and housing. Poverty affected children are highly predisposed to developmental risk issues (Junn & Boyatzis, 2000). This paper examines the various impacts of poverty o early child development.
Stress is an impact of poverty on early child development. Poverty causes corrosion of families and parental relationships making it extremely hard for parents to get involved in parenting and providing for the child’s basic needs. Parental stress affects the development process of a child, and extreme stress can impair the neuron pathways of the child’s brain which is underdeveloped (Kail, 2006). As a result, continuous problems in learning, physical and mental health emerge in the child’s life. Studies affirm that the prevalence of poverty is high in households with non-English residents, single parents, and large families with high illiteracy levels. All these are contributing factors of poverty that result in stress. This implies that children in these families are exposed to development problems, but it should not guarantee that children raised in English families do not experience development problems.
Poverty affects the health of a child, which negatively influences the development process. Researchers claim that children conceived by mothers suffering from poverty have susceptibility to low birth weight and various infections. Low birth weight in babies is linked to lifelong problems including higher rates of infection, cerebral palsy and even obesity at a later stage of life. Studies also pointed out that parents affected by poverty have higher chances of smoking. This is because it is the only cheapest form of leisure. However, smoking during pregnancy is immensely detrimental to the health of the child. Smoking by expectant mothers is associated with increased prematurity rates and high prevalence of low birth weight. Another study also claimed that children who were exposed to passive smoking eventually have poor health and higher incidences of respiratory diseases such as asthma. Poverty-affected mothers have relatively lower breastfeeding rates. Breastfeeding is significant to the development of premature and low birth weight babies (Maume & Arrighi, 2007). It is more likely that mothers who do not or rarely breastfeed are smokers, young, obese, and illiterate. These are contributing factors to poor outcome in children.
Poverty is a causative factor to poor parenting. Despite having partly or all parental qualities, such as well-meaning and caring, parents suffering from poverty might practice poor parenting during the development process of a child. This is because of impacts of chronic stress and frequently low literacy levels. Moreover, the increased incidences of child abuse, neglect, and accidents are more frequent among poor parents. According to protection authorities, the rates of substantiated notifications are higher among parents living in poverty than those living beyond poverty line. The reason behind these results is that mothers living in poverty have increased levels of depression (McCartney & Phillips, 2011). The combination of maternal depression and poverty results in poor relationships between parents and children and disrupts the capability to perform parenting tasks in a better way.
Poverty affects the literacy and education of child during the early stages of development (Saracho, 2006). It has been noted that children having poor parents are less expected to be read to by their parents. This further contributes to the exceedingly poor literacy skills. Children suffering from poverty are less expected to visit the museums, libraries, and art galleries that contribute to the development of growing literacy skills. The lower status of socio-economic families renders children the accessibility to educational facilities and makes them not to afford necessary fees charged on their use. The end repercussion is that children from poor families are disadvantaged and continue being illiterate (Kail, 2006).
Poverty can affect housing, which is a basic need to everyone including children (Maume & Arrighi, 2007). The effect on childhood development is more pronounced than any other circumstance. Shelter is highly detrimental to the survival of all human beings. This implies that if poor shelter can affect a grown up, then the effects on a child are immeasurable. Families suffering from poverty are most likely to have poor quality or temporal housing. Such families are also likely to have frequent relocation from one city to another in search of places that will suit their economic status and provide a comfortable life. However, the changing economic situations force them to be always on the move. These movements may interfere with the development of established neighborhood and community links. Moreover, the continuity of childcare and education are the worst affected leading to poor early child development.
Poverty affects “collective efficacy.” Collective efficacy is the coming together of members of a community to work in unity for a common good of the community (Horgan, 2007). When communities experience high levels of poverty, and there are linking issues which might include unemployment or mental illness, it is possible that a weakened collective efficacy will be found. Family’s or individual’s social status within the community can establish whether the individual or family feels appreciated, valued, needed, or whether they are ignored, insignificant, disrespected or stigmatized. The most socially disadvantaged are the poor, and they normally feel excluded. This might contribute to less willingness to access conventional services within the community that are necessary to young children at their development stage. As a result, children from poor families might have a problem in interacting with other children in the community (Horgan, 2007). Children need to grow socially through interaction, but poverty becomes a disadvantage to them affecting their development.
Poverty can make children from poor families “learn to be poor.” This is because poverty has limited control of experience and reduces an individual’s aspirations. Children suffering from poverty are likely to be vulnerable to poor early childhood development, although their parents frequently have extremely little resources and capability to balance for the risks. Despite the importance of early child learning experiences, children from poor families reach school entry when they are already underprivileged (Kail, 2006). This is because of the limited accessibility to extremely high quality education programs. Many children from poor families experience poor school transition, which affects their childhood development in terms of literacy. A successful change of school is vital since it facilitates continuity in relationships and does not affect the social, learning, and physical environment and the rules. The poor transitions affect all the above and might result in discontinuities and less family involvement. With these obstacles presented by poverty, children from poor families opt to “learn to be poor” not by choice but by giving up.
Poverty can also be an advantage to children from poor families (Kail, 2006). Poverty was and is still a source of motivation to some successful people, though not always. Children from poor families might get motivated during their early development stage through proper guidance from parents. Some poor parents also encourage their children to struggle and utilize any opportunity available to overcome the effects of poverty. As much as these children might have limited access to high quality education material, they might struggle to excel in education and other co-curricular activities. Researches affirmed that some children from poor families show academic excellence because of poverty and self-struggle to overcome it. This is important in the sense that it increases literacy levels among the poor children who see poverty as a challenge (Junn & Boyatzis, 2000).
In conclusion, childhood period is immensely significant for the child’s future health and development. Some of the effects of poverty encompass areas such as stress, health, parenting, child literacy, and housing Efforts in ensuring proper child development are normally made by parents, health professional, and educators who work collectively. Parental stress affects the development process of a child, and extreme stress can impair the neuron pathways of the child’s brain, which is underdeveloped. Low birth weight in babies is linked to lifelong problems including higher rates of infection, cerebral palsy, and even obesity at a later stage of life. Despite having partly or all parental qualities such as well-meaning and caring, parents suffering from poverty might practice poor parenting during the development process of a child. Poverty affects the literacy and education of child during the early stages of development. Families suffering from poverty are most likely to have poor quality and temporal housing. Such families are also likely to have frequent relocation from one city to another in search of places that will suit their economic status and contribute to living a comfortable life. Children from poor families might get motivated during their early development stage through proper guidance from parents.