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The Long Term Effects of Childhood Poverty

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The Long Term Effects of Childhood Poverty

Nicole Castillo

Composition II

Professor McArdle


The Long Term Effects of Childhood Poverty

Childhood poverty is a major problem here in the United Sates. It is a problem that has server consequences and with out correction, may prove to be a never ending cycle. I am going to discuss why childhood poverty is such a problem and what the long-term effects include, such as: physical and emotional health concerns, cognitive and emotional delays, and pregnancy complications due to the effect of poverty. You will also be informed on exactly what we can do to help. If we don't take action, the cycle will continue, and there are several things we can do to help end this vicious cycle.

Child poverty calls for attention because a substantial amount of research links poverty with a lower-level of child well-being (Anderson Moore, 2009). Children living in poverty are more likely to have emotional and physical health problems, cognitive and social delays, dropout of high school, become teen parents, an as adults earn less and be on unemployment more frequently (, 2009). For children younger than 18, the poverty rate increased from 17.7 % in 2006, to 18 % in 2007. That 18 % translates into 13.3 million children living in poverty in the United States in 2007. That is an increase of 497,000 children between 2006 and 2007 (Anderson Moore, 2009). Something needs to be done before this poverty epidemic gets out of control.

One of the major concerns when it comes to the effects of child poverty is the physical, emotional, and behavioral problems that occur. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, children in poverty are 3.6 times more likely than non poor children to have poor health and 5 times more likely to die from infectious diseases (Connecticut, 2004). Children in poverty have higher rates of hospital admissions, obesity, asthma, and other chronic health conditions. 34% of children from lower income families are obese as opposed to 19% of higher income families (Connecticut, 2004). This is due lower income families having inadequate access to preventative and curative emergency care, poor nutrition, single-parent families, dysfunctional families, and poor housing.

Parental depression is found to be twice as common among low income parents (Connecticut, 2004). One study found that children in persistently poor families had more internalizing and externalizing behavior problems than children who had never been poor (Connecticut, 2004). Several factors explain the increase in behavioral problems associated with poverty which include: increased exposure to parental depression, domestic violence, as well as substance and alcohol abuse (Connecticut, 2004). Children in poverty also have a greater risk of displaying behavior or emotional problems like disobedience, impulsiveness, difficulty getting along with peers, low self-esteem, and increased vulnerability toward substance abuse.

Children in poverty are at an increased risk for cognitive and educational delays through their development. Children that live below the poverty line are 1.3 times more likely to have cognitive delays and learning disabilities than non poor children (Connecticut, 2004). According to the Center on Hunger and Poverty at Brandeis University,

"Under nutrition along with environmental factors associated with poverty can permanently retard physical growth, brain development, and cognitive abilities" (Connecticut, 2004).

This delays their readiness for school, and school unreadiness has lasting effects that extend well beyond kindergarten. More than 1/3 of low income children enter kindergarten already behind their peers, and by 4th grade more than 50% of those children won't meet 4th grade reading levels. Poverty has the highest correlation with high school dropout rates (American, 2010). In 2007, it was estimated that dropout rates for students living in the lowest quartile of family income were more than seven times higher than students that were in the highest quartile of family income )American, 2010). In a study that covered dropout rates by family income from 1972 to 2001, high school students from low income families dropped out six times as often as high income families (Connecticut, 2009).

Poverty is strongly associated with low birth rate and other poor pregnancy outcomes. Women who are poor are 80% more likely to deliver a low birth weight baby than those who are not poor (Wood, 2003). Pregnant women living in poverty are less likely to eat an adequate diet and get proper prenatal care. Adolescents who are poor are three times as likely to have a child out of wedlock as those who are affluent which is associated with low birth rates, as well as other prenatal and postnatal complications (Connecticut, 2009). The children of teenage mothers are more likely to perform poorly in school and 50% more likely to repeat a grade, and thus, the cycle continues.

If nothing is done the cycle will continue. Poverty during early childhood causes poor physical and emotional development, behavioral problems, cognitive and educational delays, increased dropout rates, vulnerability toward substance abuse, and teenage pregnancies. This then makes a new generation of children forced to grow up in poverty and suffer the consequences. There is no easy solution, but if we focused on a few key elements we can make a difference. Building and promoting more welfare-to-work programs will help people on welfare gain employment and get off welfare. Support efforts are needed to strengthen marriages and to decrease births to teens and unmarried women. We also must encourage father involvement. We should also increase funding to continue child care subsidies so it makes it easier to gain employment. Educating low income parents about food and health care assistance will also make a great improvement. Each of which I have just discussed holds the key to ending this poverty epidemic and breaking the cycle.


American Psychological Association. (2010). Facing the School Dropout Dilemma. Retrieved from http//

Anderson Moore, Kristin. (April 2009). Children in Poverty: Trends, Consequences, and Policy Options. Retrieved from http// (2009). Child Poverty and Family Income. Retrieved from http//




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