The Effects of Poverty on Children Development

Poverty has shown to cause negative influences on child development in different dimensions. This blog presents the effect of poverty on the cognitive, health, social-emotional and behavioral development of young children and as well the education outcomes of children in poverty, which aims to summarize the published and reliable data on the impact of children development in different aspects. This topic is of interest because children are the hardcore for the future regardless of nationalities and borders. Poverty and its side-effects are major risk factors. And the first several years of life are extremely significant because important development occurs in all domains for a child. Therefore, in the following, the specific effects would be explained in details.

Child Health

Poverty can cause serious health risks including mortality. When children reach 12 months of age, Increased mortality risks for poor children are not eliminated. The research was showing that poverty status was correlated with the increased number of children’s bed days and school absences, and decreased maternal rating of child health. Even for other studies have found that for whites, poverty status based on family income is what negatively affects child development. For blacks, conditions associated with poverty, such as low maternal education, rather than a lack of income per se is what produces significant handicapping effects on children. Researchers agree that poor children exhibit higher morbidity rates as a result of two factors including lower odds of early intervention and increased risks of accidents and illness. For heightened risk factors, it has been shown that young children living in poverty experience higher blood lead levels, even after controlling for urbanity, educational level of the parent, and a host of other demographic factors. Last but not the least, children from disadvantaged backgrounds have been shown to be at greater risk of injuries resulting from accidents or physical neglect. Nearly all these studies were also based their measurement of socioeconomic status on parental education or occupation, thus not determining the net effect of income on children’s risks.

Cognitive and Emotional Development

Besides its indirect effect on child development in health, poverty has indirect influences on child development of cognition, such as stress, parenting behavior, and family processes. Some studies found that household income is the best predictor of two behavioral problems indices. While income directly affects the availability of food, health care, and housing, financial stress also hinders child development of distinct mechanisms. Because of economic limitations, poor parents have more difficulty to provide intellectually stimulating facilities including books, adequate daycare, or preschool education that are necessary for children’s development. From this point of view, researchers have found that the home environment and parent-child interaction explain some of the differences between poor and non-poor children’s cognitive outcomes. Moreover, family poverty might be disadvantageous to children’s development via poor parenting behavior. Research results suggest that under the chronic stress of poverty, parents are more likely to display punitive behaviors such as shouting, yelling and slapping. And they are with less probability to show love and warmth by cuddling and hugging, which is typically realistic when poor parents feel they receive little social support.


Since the supportive and stable home environment is significant for children’s mental health and development, the long-term exposure to the harsh treatment cause an insecure, emotional attachment of children to their parents and subsequent behavior. Homeless poor children suffer from such behavior problems at an even higher rate than children from housed low-income families. One of those studies showed that 30 percent of homeless children in Los Angeles exhibited behavior problems or school failure compared to 18 percent of housed poor children. The explanations are provided for why parents in economic difficulties tend to have hard relationships with their children. Within the all possible reasons, the most notable ones are related to this situation are depression, stress and relationship satisfaction. People living under the poor conditions are more likely to endure stress due to financial insecurity or interruption of employment, or a perceived or actual lack of social support, either financially or emotionally. Moreover, economic pressure might increase the chances of conflict between parents and children regarding money. High levels of family conflicts decrease the satisfaction of the parents and general life happiness, which negatively affects the quality of parenting behavior. Therefore, an indirect negative impact is exerted on child cognitive development.


Regardless of the importance of household atmosphere and parenting behavior on children’s cognitive development, few comprehensive studies have examined the relationship between poverty and parenting styles. However, most of the research in this field has focused on ethnic differences. For example, the blacks have been found to be less supportive in their parenting styles than whites. So much research has been documented differences in parenting styles by ethnic group. They found that white mothers gave the largest number of instructional loops at the fastest pace of their children while Chinese-American parents provided the detailed instructions and the most positive feedback. Beside family-level influences, the neighborhood has been shown to exert a major effect on the psychological development of children. To be specific, poor children are more likely to be exposed to a variety of environment hazards in their residential area such as violence, crime and drug abuse, which has a damaging impact on the development of children. Duncan et. al. has proved that the proportion of neighbors with incomes over $30,000 positively affects the IQ of five-year-olds as well as the likelihood of dropping out of high school or having a premarital birth net of family-level poverty status.

Educational Outcomes of Children

Around the world, poverty presents a chronic stress on children and families and may affect the school achievement of children. Children in low-income families are at a high risk for academic and social problems as well as poor health and well-being, which lead to undermining educational achievement. In the USA, the association between poverty and children’s development and academic performance has been well documented, which was beginning from the second year of life and extending through elementary school. Particularly, these risks happen during the preschool years; they have long-lasting consequences. For instance, readiness for kindergarten sets the trace for future success. School readiness is important to further academic achievement because of its the long-term consequences. Some researchers found that most American students who start school significant behind their peers can never close the readiness gap. On the contrary, the gap tends to widen as they grow up. The consequences of early school failure are increased probabilities of truancy, drop out and unhealthy behaviors. The relation between poverty and academic achievement of children has been well examined. Poor children are at high risk of leaving school without graduating, which results in a decline in inflation-adjusted earnings in the United States from 1979 to 2005. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Early Child Care Research Network in the USA published the evidence that children in chronically impoverished families have lower cognitive and academic performance and more behavior problems than children who are not involved into poverty. In developing countries this is the same case. Children in poverty are riskier of never attending school than children in rich, particularly, this gap is wide. The related issues behind this phenomenon are wealth and mother’s education. Typically, children raised in poverty also achieve less in school. Studies showed strong positive relationships between socioeconomic status and student achievement across countries, age levels, and academic areas of study.

When it comes to the end, what do you think of the policies we could adopt to address the problems?


(Leave a commit below, I will provide you with 3 pages of references.LOL.)

Aber, J.L. (1994), Poverty, Violence, and Child Development: Untangling Family and Community Level Effects. In: Threats to Optimal Development: Integrating Biological, Psychological, and Social Risk Factors, Edition CA Nelson 27, pp. 229-272.

Aber, J.L. et al. (1997), The Effects of Poverty on Child Health and Development. Annual Review of Public Health, Vol. 18, pp. 463-483.

Black, J. et al. (1998), Neuronal Plasticity and Developing Brain. Handbook of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, New York: Wiley, Vol. 1, pp. 31-53.



9 thoughts on “The Effects of Poverty on Children Development

  1. The level of poverty is different across countries and so therefore their solution. But I would like to lay emphasis on the developing countries.

    Poverty is relative and so its impact on children development. The level of poverty in most developing countries can be defined with respect to their locations.

    Poverty in rural areas is characterized with meagre income, lack of basic social amenities like access to good water, education, health care services; all these have direct effect on the provision of quality home training and sound education for children as earlier mentioned in the post while child abuse is always rampant.

    In the urban centers, poverty is characterized with low income (caused by underemployment), high level of income inequality, lack of faith in government and corrupt public & political office holders. All these factors have a ripple effect on children development. There is a relationship between the comfort of the parents and the way children are treated.

    One should not also neglect the cultural and religious effects on poverty in developing countries. Some people are poor but they could not recognize it because of their faith. They give their children poor education as compared to what is obtainable in their environment but failed to recognize it because of their religious belief.

    I believe to address these problems, emphasis should be placed on different programs by the respective governments for infrastructural development most especially in the rural areas.
    Government should be more transparent and earn their trust from their citizens with more developmental projects as well as creation of employment opportunities in the urban centers.

    Also there should be a proper orientation and awareness for parents on the way children should be trained and government should also tighten the protection of child’s right.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I cannot agree with you more. At the same time, I would like to share some random thoughts about the policies with you.

      Regardless of the differences between countries and something like that, child poverty strategies could be divided into three policy categories, which are direct resources to children and their families, seek to influence parental fertility and marriage, and try to improve labor market outcomes for the parents of children.

      No matter which kind of strategy, there is no perfect solution to the issues. Just as you mentioned, in all cases, sustainable child poverty strategies must be coordinated with the community values.

      Thanks so much for your commit! I got inspired from your opinion!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. While it is true to say that poverty has tremendous detrimental effects on human development, it is even more convincing to say that poverty has unwanted effects on child development.But poverty as a generic term has a heavy undertone.Do we refer to state poverty(National level) or individual(family ) poverty subject to income?.
        Poor countries usually lack basic amenities for child development caused by underinvestment in pubilc health and education.Other social services and basic infrastructures may be lacking causing over crowding in the few available facilities.This is a problem to be addressed by the state by providing citizens with much needed socio economic infrastructure.
        Again family poverty is directly associated with child health, achievement and behavior but are we accounting for the type of family in question. Is it headed by a female, what is the age of the mother and the education level sum up to explain some deviations from normal child development.
        Detrimental child developmental effects due to poverty are not found only in developing countries.The US which has a high standard of living with well developed social and health infrastructure is not left behind.Most black communities are poor and lack social infrastructure coupled with single motherhood impacting heavily on family and child development.
        In EU severe child birth defects are not caused by poverty but by consumption patterns and habits while in other rich and emerging countries defects could be due to pollution like the case of China.
        To solve this problem in most developing countries especially sub saharan, government has put in place severe measures:
        -expansion of the social infrastructure network by building more hospitals,health centers, nursing homes
        -increasing the educational coverage especially to remote areas and making education free at basic level and almost free at university level as seen in Cameroon.
        -emphasis in the sciences, public health,medicine in the tertiary education sector
        -nation wide campaigns about reproductive and family health to synthesis the public about certain problems
        -mobile clinics and hospitals meeting the poor and rural in their various communities as seen in Cameroon
        -empowerment of the women especially those in rural areas by giving them competence training in modern agricultural technics, sewing, cookery, fashion design using local fabrics, entrepreneurship
        -working with non governmental partners and foreign governments to coordinate rural activities for sustainable development
        -emphasis on green solution for a pure and friendly environment

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I kind of did not get your idea. Just as you said, I stand for the opinion that Children should be raised up under a secure and satisfied condition with 100 percent sureness. But if we hold on this perspective, the child labor is supposed to be illegal, not to mention the child labor with discriminatory wages. What do you think?


  2. Thanks for this, very perfect.
    Rural fiannce will also play a key role, if these poor families can have access to credit and have good loan conditions they can inject these funds in their repective businesses and provide for their children, on the other hand, government subsidy policies i.e. subsidizing education and providing free education for the girl child and also free basic healthcare will be a good approach to address the problems
    Micro insurance will also play a key role in this case;.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your compliment, this blog is not perfect though. LOL. I like your microinsurance suggestion. Since I have a presentation of this topic this semester as well, I have never connected this idea to the poverty of children. I appreciate your reply and brilliant ideas. You make me think this issue more comprehensively !


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