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Psychological Effects of Poverty in Children

Written by: Dhivya Manivannan - Final year student, School of Excellence in Law, B.A.B.L (Hons.), interested in social issues relating to women and children.
Constitutional Lawyers in India
Legal Service
  • Poverty, according to Professor. Charles Karelis, Colgate University, is equivalent to six bee stings. A common benchmark for people living below poverty line would be that they are not in a position to afford two square meals a day. The so termed poor, are prone to early marriages, drop outs of school, drug abuse, crime activities. Teaming up with the children of their age, who are so affluent monetarily, will psychologically let down the kids from poor background. This Article primarily aims at trying to find out the causes and the psychological effects of poverty in children's attitude, with special emphasis on the younger generation of India.

    Causes of Poverty

    There are definitely a number of causes that might probably lead to poverty. These causes are usually looked at, from various points of view. Looking at an Economists point of view, it so turns out that, low per capita income, unemployment could be the primary reasons for poverty. On a social perspective, lack of healthy habits, unclean habits, health hazards, absence of family planning schemes could lead to poverty. Whatever the reasons are, the net result ultimately is that, it affects the society as a whole and in a strict sense, it is not a question of an individual's survival, but is one of the society's healthy existence.
    Unplanned population is one main reason of poverty. Education, according to some could lead to alleviation of this problem. But unless the" more- hands- to- feed- a- mouth" situation is evacuated, there will still exist the demon called poverty. Education, coupled with a little positive attitude and a peaceful environ could do wonders to not only to alleviate, but even to eradicate it.

    Consequences of Living Below Poverty Line:

    # Poor health
    # Nil education
    # Low standard of living
    # Lack of awareness about basic necessities
    # Higher level of frustration
    # Mood swings
    # Want to achieve the goal by hook or crook
    # Misconception about principles of living
    # Unhealthy stress levels.

    Effect of Poverty In The Development of A Child:

    It is a well known fact that the attitude of a child and the way it behaves, is determined during a child's formative years. It is common sight to find children facing poverty during the primitive years are more prone to violent behavior. Notwithstanding all the trauma faced by them during their childhood, it is but more likely that they would have seen only the harsh phase of life. A common result- children end up with an attitude of procuring everything not caring about its means but only its ends.

    No body except the conditions of the child's up bringing could be blamed. When being confronted with worse situations and people treating them as an out caste when subjected to poverty, only provokes them and it gets hardened day by day.

    Causes For Provocation
    Peer Pressure:
    It is very common to see children of poor families being left astray to play with any random person who is willing to do so with it. But the parents seldom understand that the child can absorb vehemently anything that it is exposed to in its initial years. If, by such association, the kid is exposed to a comparatively rich background, it is but natural that the associate is bound to tempt him to enjoy such luxuries. The irony is that the kid seems to understand what its financial position is, but at the same time, it is not able to rest itself in such low profile area. This conflict, the inability and the difference between its reality and its fancy creates turmoil in the mind of the child.

    Single Mothers:
    India is supposedly ranked best in relation to its values and customs. But one more aspect of westernization that indirectly encourages poverty is single motherhood. Lack of trust and escapist and care free attitude of the name sake fathers contribute to the growth of poverty. The mothers, unable to bring up the child with dignity, thanks to the set up of the society towards women, and the child exposed to taunts of his friends is sufficient to rake up violent attitude in the child s mind.

    While the findings show that the effects of low income at an early age on antisocial behaviour--conduct such as bullying, being cruel, breaking things, cheating or telling lies--persist as kids get older, depression seems to have the opposite effect. The effects of starting off in a low-income household on child depression lessen as time goes on, regardless of later income levels. The research is published in the current issue of the "Journal of Health and Social Behavior."

    Taunting In School:
    The most common misinterpretation that could probably happen is that one primary cause of poverty could be increase in the number of school drop outs. The other way of looking at it is that, school drop out is caused primarily because of poverty. The present generation of children is that they cannot appreciate anything if the other person is not from their strata of the society. It so happens many a times that children from lower rungs of the society, when made to mingle with children from a normal back ground, it is very likely that these kids are treated as an outcaste.

    Long Term Deprivation:
    Children, when constantly exposed to insults as to their status or extravaganza, it does have some negative effect on its psychology which cannot be denied. When the child starts to absorb the fact that, it iis indeed deprived of all the vagaries of a peer, it turns violent at the injustice meted out to it .This is but natural. But there should be something done to evolve the child as a cultured person and wake it up to the reality of life. It is indeed a Herculean task, but considering the quantum of violence in India, which is an indirect result of the subject we are talking about, it is essential and it should be brought in as an integral part of the social policy of the country.

    Karelis, Professor of George Washington University has a radical argument to make. While a person with a single bee sting tries to get it treated, one with multiple stings can do nothing about it. It is because if one sting is treated, the other stings till throb. Similarly, in utmost poverty, people just reconcile to their destiny.

    Low Income of The Household:

    Low income of the household can surely be a determining factor. It is but natural that children get vexed with their parents' incapacity to provide them with their bare minimum necessities. It is however, surprising, it is them that the anti social elements target and they become easy victims of the anti social pieces of the society.

    Children in low-income families start off with higher levels of antisocial behaviour than children from more advantaged households. And if the home remains poor as the children grow up, antisocial behaviour becomes much worse over time compared to children living in households that are never poor or later move out of poverty, says new University of Alberta research. While the findings show that the effects of low income at an early age on antisocial behaviour--conduct such as bullying, being cruel, breaking things, cheating or telling lies--persist as kids get older, depression seems to have the opposite effect. The effects of starting off in a low-income household on child depression lessen as time goes on, regardless of later income levels. The research is published in the current issue of the "Journal of Health and Social Behavior."

    As development experts learn more about the importance of the first three years of life, there is growing recognition that investments in early education, maternal-child attachment and nurturance, and more creative nutrition initiatives are critical to help break the cycle of poverty in the slightest forms of food insecurity can affect a young child’s development and learning potential.

    # Long Term Poverty Continues:
    The provocation leads to a very much undesired result. Though there might be anecdotes to change the attitude of people and that, there are two ways of looking at life, it is only next to difficult. There is a school of thought which says, the positive outlook of life lies in facing the negatives of life, yet tuning our mind towards the positive ones and thereby not letting it to continue to happen. But, in reality, how long and how far it is possible is a question of circumstances. It is only less likely that children who have been exposed to nothing more than brutal attacks of poverty, to have a positive approach to life and it is highly fair on their part to take to succumb to their position, which obviously results only in continued poverty on a much larger scale.

    There is a new reason to feel ashamed about America’s failure to fight poverty. Neuroscientists have recently discovered that children who grow up in poor families with a low social status are prone to experiencing unhealthy stress levels, which in turn may impair their neural development. This effects both language development and memory, and may predispose these children to lifelong poverty.

    There was short-term success in fighting poverty during the 1960s under the leadership of Linden B. Johnson, who declared a “war on poverty.” Poverty rates fell from 23 percent in 1963 to 14 percent by 1969. This was the end of the progress, however. In 2006, over 17 percent of America’s children lived below the poverty line. This is a sharp increase from the numbers from the 1960s.

    # End Becomes Important Than The Means:
    Provocation, taunting, and vexation in life can, by itself bring in a vigor in a child's life and that happens to be the turning point in life. But when that happens due to monetary factor, it can definitely create negative traits. The sole aim of such children would only be to achieve financial success, come what may. The ends become more important to them than the means. IT results in increase in the anti social elements of the nation.

    It can, if carefully analysed, be observed that (notwithstanding no one cares about the psychological back drop of a criminal –an anti social element), a bad childhood strikes at the root of all problems especially such criminal streak running in a persons attitude. It cannot for sure, happen overnight. Unless it has been deeply embedded within the very insight of the person, it is very rare to find a criminal tinge in a child whose up bringing has been normal like any other child.

    # More Prone To Violence:
    Child is the father of man. He merely reflects what he has been accorded. When the teacher at school uses corporal punishment on him for small offences, that is more common these days, he reciprocates the same. The child, during his adult days, if not given something he is duly entitled, all that he can actually think of was how he was flogged by the teacher and was made to do something, and it is religiously followed by the child.

    It kindles violence when he is not given his due. The attitude of might is right automatically gets impressed on him.

    # Power And Status Monger:
    The immediate attitude of a child constantly exposed to long term poverty would be that having observed how life is, he is bound to think that he needs to be in good power and status to command the respect of the society that has insulted him so long and it naturally requires to achieve it in a short span of time, honest means is not convenient. This results in a more irritable view of resorting to crooked means to achieve the status and power so longingly desired for.
    The basic structure of the society is broken up due to such unruly elements. Goonda raj can sustain only because of such meek individuals who depend more on their brawns than on their brains.

    # Poor Learning And Comprehensive Skills
    It is very common to see that the persons from financially challenged backgrounds find it hard to learn with the same vigor as that of children from effluent background. They find it hard to concentrate because of their social irritability. Things preoccupy them and prevent their mind from concentrating on any innovative stuff. It actually does not serve any purpose because any step taken to be merely on paper without being implementation.

    Academic and behavioral problems can be indicators of impending failure. Among such behaviors are: delay in language development, delay in reading development, aggression, violence, social withdrawal, substance abuse, irregular attendance, and depression. Teachers may have difficulty reaching a student’s parent or guardian. They may also find the student does not complete assignments, does not study for tests, or does not come to school prepared to learn because of poverty related circumstances in the home environment. These children may be unable to concentrate or focus. They may be unwilling or unable to interact with peers and/or adults in school in an effective manner. These issues not only have an impact on the learning of the child of poverty but can also impact the learning of other children.

    It is not the duty of the state to get it over burdened with elevating people from poverty all on a sudden. But, it can for sure; give effect to the directive principles of state policy, that the state should take steps to ensure that the tender age of children is protected. Considering so many studies being submitted and with even a common man's approach it can vehemently be contested that poor financial conditions and prolonged exposure to the children can easily and more positively affect the psyche of a child.

    While the Directive principles issue directives for ensuring a decent and good living for all its citizens, and the Courts on their have through many case laws ensured that Right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India includes right to healthy living I submit humbly that, unless the psychological health of citizens is ensured with economic security, the problem of poverty is not even remotely solved with the help of legislations. It is to be clearly understood that, at times, it may seem to be a infinitesimal portion of children, not to forget, they make future India and all our citizens have a fond hope that neither the legislature nor the executive wants to develop a violent, more aggressive posterity. If this is understood clearly there can be no place to develop any unhealthy symptom in the younger generation and removing poverty.


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