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The Effects of Poverty Related Stress on Children

Running Head: Poverty Related Stress on Children 1 Poverty-Related Family Stress and the Psychological Effects for Children and Adolescents Kelli Watson HDFS 360- Family Development The Ohio State University May 27, 2011 Poverty Related Stress on Children Abstract What is child poverty and how does it affect the overall outcome of children? The US Census Bureau defines poverty by determining if a family’s total income is less than the family’s threshold. If so, then that family and every individual in it would be considered in poverty. In 2009, 15. 5 million children in the U. S. nder the age of 18, or more than one in five children, 2 were living in poverty. Over five million of these children were under the age of five. This is an almost 10 percent increase over 2008. The data from 2009 revealed the largest number of people in poverty on record (U. S. Census Bureau, 2010). Given such high rates, child poverty warrants much attention. Poverty can cause family conflict, which is exacerbated by poverty related stress and is detrimental to child and adolescent mental health (Santiago 2009). As well, poverty can impair children’s overall emotional, intellectual and physical development.

According to Dearing (2008), developmental dysfunction and delay are most likely to occur and are most severe when youth live in extremely poor conditions for relatively long periods. The major challenge to eradicate poverty, which would decrease family stress, is overcoming the various factors that contribute to family poverty. Poverty Related Stress on Children Poverty-Related Family Stress and the Psychological Effects for Children and Adolescents 3 There are many diverse and complex factors that may contribute to family poverty, such as unemployment/underemployment, lack of education and family structure, to name a few.

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Each one of the mentioned factors can bring about economic pressure, which can increase emotional distress and therefore cause family conflict (Santiago 2009). At the forefront is unemployment, the leading cause for family stress and poverty and is one of the most difficult circumstances for a family to overcome. The Recession being faced currently has significantly placed many families into poverty, making the future not look so bright for the youth. Studies have proven that there is a significant division between families when both parents are in the work force versus when no parents are in the work force.

The increased strain to provide clothing, meet the costs of food, to carry medical expenses and provide housing directly affects those involved. Often, marital conflict, drug and alcohol abuse, physical abuse and psychological issues among children can be seen as a result of poverty. It has been well recognized that children who experience family stress due to economic hardship are at increased risk for anxiety and depression, behavior problems, poor academic achievement and social and emotional problems (Wadsworth & Berger 2006). Poverty Related Stress on Children 4

Psychological costs of children due to family stress are major problems that need to be diminished by eradicating poverty. These issues limit a child’s ability to develop like those not in poverty and also allows for greater exposure to stressors, all which will impact their mental and physical well-being. Improving the economic well-being of the poor family will in turn psychologically improve the child or adolescent. There are various ways to possibly intervene and address the economic situation thus impacting family stress and the effects seen on children who live in poverty.

First, we should not only be concerned with the government and how to improve poverty, we as a society need to find a way to dismiss child poverty all together. Where do we begin to fix the issues? To aid in the economic struggle that families have, the government may be able provide an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit for poor families. As well, more employment opportunities need to be created in which pay is adequate. If we can find ways to improve and rebuild our economy, a reduction in the amount of stress seen within the home will reduce and therefore creating a less stressed environment for families.

However, though the idea is great, fixing the economic struggles will take time. In the meantime, providing education, support and counseling to the families on how to better handle family stress may reduce some of impacts seen on the children. Basically, if something is not done to create financial stability in families, we will continue to see family stress which will effect child well-being. Additionally, due to the developmental problems in early life, such problems as reduced earnings, crime involvement and mental health problems may continue across the lifespan (Dearing 2008). . Poverty Related Stress on Children

References Dearing , Eric (2008). Psychological Costs of Growing Up Poor. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol. 1136, Issue: 1, pp. 324 – 332 5 DeCarlo Santiago, Catherine & Wadsworth, Martha E. (2009). Coping with Family Conflict: What’s Helpful and What’s Not for Low-income Adolescents. Family Studies, Vol. 18, Issue: 2, pp. 192 – 202 Journal of Child and Santiago, Catherine DeCarlo & Wadsworth, Martha E. & Stump, Jessica (2011). Socioeconomic status, neighborhood disadvantage, and poverty-related stress: Prospective effects on psychological syndromes among diverse low-income families. Journal of Economic Psychology, Vol. 2, Issue: 2, pp. 218 – 230 US Census Bureau (2010). Poverty Definitions. Retrieved May 27, 2011, http://www. census. gov/newsroom/releases/archives/income_wealth/cb10-144. html US Census Bureau (2010). Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009. Retrieved May 27, 2011, http://www. census. gov/hhes/www/poverty/methods/definitions. html Poverty Related Stress on Children Wadsworth, Martha E. & Berger, Lauren E. (2006). Adolescents Coping with Poverty-Related Family Stress: Prospective Predictors of Coping and Psychological Symptoms. of Youth and Adolescence, Vol. 35, Issue: 1, pp. 54 – 67 6 Journal


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