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Poverty and its Effects on Child Development

Imagine going to sleep at night with an empty stomach in a bedroom that’s too cold. How would anyone living in these conditions be ready for the day ahead? Spoiler alert, they wouldn’t be.

Unfortunately, this is the reality for a lot of children living in poverty. Want to know the worse part? They’re expected to go about their daily lives without any problems or complaints.

For too many children, living in poverty has become commonplace. With the rising cost of living and low wages, many families do not have the proper funds to support their children and meet their needs. According to the Center for American Progress, nearly 11 million children are living in poverty. And at the alarming rate that children in the country are experiencing life below the living standard, it makes one wonder: what is the mental toll of this kind of living situation? How does poverty affect a child, not just physically, but mentally as well?

Mental Implications

Poverty affects a child’s mental health by diminishing their self-esteem and worth. For most children, being in poverty makes them feel inadequate compared to their peers and they tend to feel out of place. Children in poverty may not wish to challenge themselves in school, interact with peers, or maintain aspirations as they feel inferior due to improper home support and unmet needs. Additionally, poverty affects a child’s mental health because it can cause them to develop a mental illness such as depression or anxiety.

When a child lives in poverty, they do not have access to all the resources to meet their needs that could leave a child feeling vulnerable. However, that vulnerability is potentially amplified as this situation is normally accompanied by low support from family and community members alike, creating an inability to cope with negative feelings and situations. Overtime, this lapse in development can morph into something more. And if it is not dealt with, a child’s life and future may be at risk.

Ending the Cycle

But with any bad news, there's always some good to accompany it. Fortunately, that mantra applies to this situation.

There is a plethora of organizations that are helping to combat child poverty, and help children deal with the mental trauma of their situation. Collectively, organizations including UNICEF, Save the Children, and the Urban Institute among others, battle child poverty by providing food and care, as well as fight for resources and legislation to tackle the mental effects and developmental problems that impoverished children face. These organizations offer a plethora of volunteer opportunities annually so that anyone can make a difference in the fight against child poverty.

While this is a situation that a lot of children are facing throughout the nation, it is something that so many are fighting to end. A child is a special gift, and their mind, body, and wellness must always be protected as best it can.

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