According to Webster’s dictionary 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 outcome starting at an early age. A child’s ability to perform high achievement in school has been recognized to play a role in poverty. (Engle ; Black, 2008). Poverty has an effect on early childhood development is complex due to its rang of diverse challenges for children and their families. More than 1 in 5 children in the U.S. are living in poverty (Foss – Kelly, Generali, ; Kress, 2017). 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 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.. This paper will discuss how poverty directly affects achievement in early childhood development based on social and cognitive development.
Social emotional problems of 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 impacting their functioning and school readiness negatively. Adolescents in low income areas are more likely to experience behavioral problems than children living in middle class of high class on the socioeconomic status. Social emotional development is an important development attachment. Low income and poverty are linked to inconsistence, unsupportive, and uninvolved parenting styles which all are associated with a child’s behavior problems. There was a study done in Norway where Boe and his colleagues examined the association between parent-related family economy and child mental health (Cooper, Masi, ; Vick, 2009). Their findings showed that poorer family economy was associated with both external and internal problems.
Erikson’s stages of early psychosocial development explains the three stages of basic trust versus mistrust, autonomy versus shame and doubt and lastly initiative versus guilt (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2014). The basic trust versus mistrust stage builds the foundation of human development. At this stage there is the sense of security, consistency and trust. Young adolescents going through this first stage sets the tone of relationships especially families living in poverty. Families living in poverty may struggle with consistency and their children feeling secure because resources are limited. Not only are their challenges with the family but there is also a challenge to build a friendship. When adolescents struggle with these concepts in the family it becomes hard for the child to trust other children and build a friendship because of their living situation. Autonomy versus shame and doubt is the stage where children gradually learn that they can control their own actions. During the early childhood development children learn to control their actions through what they are taught and what they see. The last stage initiative versus guilt is the stage where children start taking responsibility for themselves and explore the environment they are brought in (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2014).
Over 40% of children with multiple adverse childhood experiences demonstrate negative behaviors such as arguing, bullying, or being cruel to others. These behaviors could be expressed at home with their families living in poverty. There could be exposure to violence in the neighborhood or home. This behavior is brought to school and other environments because this is the only way they know to protect themselves or get their point across. Negative behaviors make it harder for the adolescents to build meaningful friendships (Ferguson, Bovaird, & Mueller, 2007). Children in poverty display fewer positive behaviors than their middle and affluent peers. A lot of times adolescents living in poverty isolate themselves because they see what others have and they do not have. Their peers may shun these adolescents out because of how their appearance is resulting in negative behavior or the lack of emotions shown. Poverty makes it harder for adolescents socially because they are used to one way at school and another way at home. The feeling of shame and embarrassment comes into play when looking at peers who may live in the middle class or the affluent.
The cognitive development is where children grow and develop rapidly the four motor skills: language and communication and cognitive skills. This development is how children think, explore and figure things out. Studies have found consistently large associations between poverty during early childhood development and academic outcomes. When poverty is a factor in cognitive development during the beginning years of an adolescents’ life, it can cause long-term consequences. Approximately 30 percent of young children are less likely to complete school than children who experience poverty until later in life (Lacour ; Tissington, 2011). The gaps become harder to close the older the children get because they may feel alienated from society, suffer from insecurities because of living in poverty, or fearing the consequences of poverty.
A child’s cognitive development could be affected from poverty due to the factors of health, nutrition, environment, and parental style. 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 potential of social emotional and cognitive 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. The physical well-being and motor skills are important functions of an adolescents development. Parents from disadvantaged backgrounds with lack of resources are born prematurely and unreasonably 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. 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). The best way to help early adolescents living in poverty is to follow the keys of success that guides adolescents to grow, develop, and achieve their success. The keys of success can be empathetic, the ability to form and maintain lasting and meaningful relationships with both boys and girls. Tolerating diversity, values of others, ethics and moral guidelines for behavior, and the capacity to be independent and the ability to work well with others (Horton – Parker & Brown, 2002). Dealing with this sensitive topic for adolescents it is important to understand how to reach out to others in a meaningful way.
As a counselor helping adolescents who live in poverty is important. The first step is to build a relationship with him/her. Understand the developmental task of adolescents is key for identifying areas where they may be experiencing delays according to the developmental milestones. The article Counseling Strategies for Empowering People Living in Poverty: The I-CARE Model is for counselors to support their clients who live in poverty. First is the internally reflect where counselors bring their own cultural norms, expectations and values about diverse groups to the counseling session (Foss – Kelly, Generali, & Kress, 2017). This could be problematic depending on the extent of the cultural encapsulation. Cultural encapsulation refers to the way of interacting on the limited understanding of other cultures. When dealing with this topic counselors have to tread lightly because anything said the wrong way could trigger and offend the child (Foss – Kelly, Generali, & Kress, 2017). 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. 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. Negative behaviors from social emotional development such as arguing, bullying, and other violence happen because of feeling uncomfortable and shamed for the situation they are going in versus the other peers. Adolescents in poverty often experience some form of discrimination. Cultivating the relationship from the I-CARE model allows counselors to demonstrate deep respect for the humane of the client and faith in the client’s ability to more effectively cope with the challenges of living in poverty (Foss – Kelly, Generali, ; Kress, 2017). The counselor instills hope that the adolescents are capable of success.
Acknowledging realities is for counselors to understand the reality of challenges and how the lack of sufficient income can affect a person’s life. When counseling clients who live in poverty, counselors must understand the reality their clients are going through. Its important to keep in mind the lack f resources a family may have. Understand their reality and how poverty related stress a contributing factor to is both physical and mental heath issues (Foss – Kelly, Generali, & Kress, 2017). Sometimes counselors are frustrated, unprepared or overwhelmed by the challenges their clients are facing living in poverty. While counselors keep in mind their clients’ challenges living in poverty, they should also keep in mind the challenges minorities face living in poverty. In general women are 35 percent more likely to live in poverty than men. Therefore, women of color may face a triple jeopardy. During the counseling session acknowledgment of these issues may facilitate a more authentic counselor client relationship. To be an effective counselor one must acquire the kills and practices for the appropriate population.
Removing barriers is the next concept of the I-CARE model. After the counselor has acknowledged the reality of people who live in poverty, a client may then begin the process of identifying different barriers that will help the healing and growth process (Foss – Kelly, Generali, ; Kress, 2017). 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. Provide resources to help the family and the child trust the counselor. 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.
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.