According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, “21% of low-income children and youth ages 6-17 have mental health problems” and “57% of these low-income children come from households with incomes at or below the federal property level” (Masi and Cooper, “Children’s Mental Health”). Poverty provides a poor growing environment to children and increases their susceptibility to developing mental health problems. Often times, the families cannot afford early treatment, so the problems progressively worsen during childhood and leading into adult life.
The negative effects poverty has on children’s ental health are that it puts them at risk for acquiring many different behavioral, emotional, and developmental problems, limits their academic potential, and introduces problems in adulthood that make it harder to have a successful and functional life. Along with many obstacles in childhood, poverty can be an instrumental factor in determining whether or not a child can thrive, or continue living in the cycle of poverty. Children are vulnerable to developing mental problems while living under the overwhelming, frightening, and debilitating conditions of poverty.
They may develop behavioral problems, motional disorders, and developmental delays. Some of the main behavioral problems are the inability to get along with peers, impulsiveness, aggression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conduct disorder (American Psychological Organization). Conduct disorder is a mental disorder characterized by having a limited understanding of personal violations and social norms, bullying, aggression, and deceitfulness/theft (Coleman).
The main influencing factor on behavior is the environment in which the children are raised in, moreover, children raised in subpar conditions due to poverty re more likely to have behavioral problems. If a child is raised in a lower class community as opposed to a higher class community, they would have a higher probability of being exposed to violence, high stress, and drugs/alcohol abuse. The exposure to violence would place a greater risk of self-harm, mortality, and entry into the juvenile system, which has the potential to harm their futures. Similarly, youth have emotional problems due to poverty.
These may include “feelings of anxiety, depression, and low esteem” (American Psychological Organization). These issues usually are associated with nterpersonal relationships and social problems and start at very young ages. Children tend to mimic or imitate authority figures in order to learn and develop, however, in most impoverished families, there are high cases of teen motherhood, substance/alcohol abuse, and child abandonment. Taking these facts into consideration, it is evident that impoverished children do not have the best authority figures to start out with, and tend to learn the negative behavior from parents.
If children grow up with a lack of consistent love, support, and guidance that a parent is expected to provide, the hild would develop the idea that they were worthless. Children will also feel very sad, gloomy, pessimistic, hopeless, and fearful over the future. These are the main signs of depression, which can progressively worsen and lead to suicide. Impoverished children also face many social challenges. Because there are many stigmas associated with people in poverty, children are subject to discrimination by their peers.
There is no extent to the places bullies will go to make someone feel bad: ranging from teasing to actual physical contact and threats. This causes social anxiety and low self-confidence. Anxiety causes children o be ashamed of themselves and face a considerable amount of embarrassment on a daily basis. of poverty is that it limits children’s performance academically. Chronic stress associated with living in poverty has shown to adversely affect children’s concentration and memory, which impacts their ability to learn.
Because many poor people live in impoverished communities, the schools are unable to meet the learning needs of children. This is because they cannot afford to employ good teachers, purchase learning equipment, or supply special ed to cater towards the vast majority of children that Another negative effect ave mental disorders. Another contributor to the lack of success in education is the dropout rate. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, “up to 44% of them drop out of school”. There are many reasons teens feel the need to drop out of school.
One is that they may feel the responsibility to work and contribute money to their household. They are forced to weigh priorities, and may not see the full importance of school when comparing it to paying bills and buying food for their family. Another reason is because they cannot handle bullying from peers due to their social status, or have mental isorders that make it difficult to learn. These disorders are easily undetected and oftentimes are criticized by parents or teachers. A common disorder among children in poverty is an antisocial personality disorder.
This disorder is “characterized by the tendency to lie, break laws, act impulsively, and lack regard for their own safety or the safety of others”(Coleman, “Oxford Dictionary of Psychology”). This disorder is often mistaken as a lack of respect and without treatment, can get kids into a lot of trouble. Children with this disorder also may have violent tendencies and have problems with drugs or alcohol. Children in poverty have 3 times the likelihood of suspension or expulsion and “Around 14% of children receive mostly Ds and Fs”(Masi and Cooper).
Failing grades and the lack of interest in school causes children to face problems later in life. Poverty during childhood has lasting effects. The last negative effect poverty has on children is that it affects their ability to succeed in their adult life. Adults who grew up in child welfare systems “experienced major mental health problems and drug and alcohol dependency at significantly higher rates than the general population”(NCCP). Due to the high stress and raumatic experiences during childhood, adults are very likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol, live on the streets, or become unemployed.
The lack of proper education, crippling mental health, or crime involvement makes it extremely hard for people who had lived in poverty to get a job. Adults who grew up in poverty also are immediately dropped into the cycle of poverty. “Inadequate education contributes to The cycle of poverty by making it more difficult for low-income children to lift themselves and future generations out of poverty”(APA). This cycle guarantees that children born to parents in poverty will ot become successful in their adult life. The adults may also take to the streets and commit crimes in order to salvage food or feed into their childhood vices.
Because “lower class youth commit four times more violent crimes than middle-class youth”(Russel), adults are more likely to resort back to crime and become incarcerated in adulthood. Lastly, their mental health problems introduced during childhood could progressively worsen. According to the NCCP, Up to 75% to 80% of children and youth in need of mental health services do not receive them and they develop in adulthood. Depression, Sociopathy, estructiveness, and an underdeveloped brain may cause a person to face problems in handling daily life.
In conclusion, poverty has a lasting influence on the mental well-being of impoverished children which can limit their potential to succeed in life. The negative effects of poverty on children’s mental health are that they have limited success in school, acquire behavioral /emotional problems and experience problems in adulthood. Without the exposure to good quality education and early treatment of psychological disorders, children in poverty will continue to live helplessly and will never reach their full potential.