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Impact of Poverty on Children Essay

According to data from UNICEF, a child in the United States is more likely to live in poverty than any other developed nation (American Psychological Association, 2012)
Children living in poverty suffer from lack of nutrition.

Lack of nutrition can lead to premature birth and/or low birth weight (APA, 2012). Inadequate access to healthy foods can lead to obesity (Dalton, 2007). Lack of food can lead to hunger or food insecurity (APA, 2012). Malnutrition can lead to deficits in cognitive and social development (APA, 2012). Failure to thrive can be a result of under nutrition (APA, 2012).

According to the American Psychological Association (2012) poverty can lead to poor academic achievement.

Stress connected with living in poverty affects concentration and memory (APA, 2012). Lack of encouragement to promote literacy and reading readiness (Cuthrell, Stapleton, & Ledford, 2010). No exposure to activities such as museums and camps (Cuthrell et al., 2010). Several states with school districts in low-income areas receive much less in state and local funding than other school districts (Hutchinson, 2013).

Poverty and lack of insurance affects children’s health.

Barrier to children receiving proper vaccinations (Becton, Lee, & Nieman, 2008). Children are a greater risk of behavioral and emotional issues (APA, 2012). Increased risk of asthma, anemia, and pneumonia (APA, 2012). Exposure to lead and other environmental contaminants (APA, 2012).

Micro social work

Working with families with children to provide services for food and health care. Collaborating with other agencies to provide services such as health departments, community service boards, and mental health service providers. Working with schools to ensure child(ren)’s needs being met. Assisting family with nutritional education and access to healthy foods.

Macro social work

Work with community to increase support for Head Start and preschool programs for all children. Policy and laws must address the lack availability of services and health insurance for children living in poverty. Advocate for school systems to better educate teachers to deal with children living in poverty – hire teachers who care about student’s achievements (Cuthrell et al., 2010). Encourage school boards to eliminate all sugary foods and drinks from school campuses. Encourage communities to be proactive in assisting families living in poverty with food and educational programs. Work with policy to promote increase in wages and employment opportunities (Fass et al., 2009).

Social Constructionist Perspective

Children in poverty have a place in society – do not move up in class. Children in poverty have certain characteristics: not intelligent, slow-minded, dirty, obese, wanting hand-outs, criminals. Children in poverty should not aspire to improve their circumstances. Society class structure gives the need for children and families to live in poverty. Poverty is accepted as a norm – need change of thinking.

Social Behavior Perspective

Children in poverty expect to grow up to live in poverty.
Children in poverty thinking is reinforced by their environment.
Children in poverty do not have high expectations or goals.
Children living in poverty continue the cycle of the parents and grandparents previously.

Conflict Perspective

Children in poverty are a non-dominant group.
Children in poverty have no voice.
Children in poverty are results of social and economic injustice – unequal division of power.

Children in poverty affect all facets of society

Schools and all children affected by policies such as: No Child Left Behind Act – teaching more to state testing versus academics and knowledge. Children in poverty cost an estimated $500 billion in lost productivity and spending on health care and criminal justice systems (Fass, Dinan, & Aratani, 2009). Children in poverty are more likely to be poor as adults, continuing the cycle increasing chances of chronic poverty ((Fass et al., 2009).

The research on children living in poverty reinforces how the environment can and will affect an individual’s situation. Poverty influences a child’s health, education, and future well-being. If a child is not given the same opportunities as other children not living in poverty, the struggle to rise above poverty can be overwhelming. The cycle of poverty will only change when there is an equality of resources. The change starts at the micro level with the individual child and the family receiving services. To break the cycle, the change must be at the macro level with change in policies and laws. Agencies and social workers must give the children living in poverty a voice that can be heard.

American Psychological Association. (2012). Effects of poverty, hunger and homelessness on children and youth. Retrieved from
http://www.apa.org/print-this.aspx Becton, J. L., Lee, C., & Nieman, L. Z. (2008). The effect of lack of insurance, poverty and paediatrician supply on immunization rates among children 19-35 months of age in the United States. Journal of evaluation in clinical practice3, 14(2), 248-253. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2753.2007.00841.x Cuthrell, K., Stapleton, J., Ledford, C. (2010). Examining the culture of poverty: promising practices. Preventing school failures, 54(2), 104-110. Dalton, S. (2007, January). Our vulnerable children: poor and overweight. Southern Medical Journal. pp. 1-2. Fass, S., Dinan, K. A., & Aratani, Y. (2009, December). Child poverty and intergenerational mobility. National center for Children in Poverty. Retrieved from http://nccp.org/publications/pub_911.html Hutchinson, E. D., (2013). Theoretical perspectives on human behavior. Essentials of human behavior integrating person, environment, and the life course. (pp. 39 – 42). Thousand Oaks, CA Sage Publications.


Krystal and Jessica both want to work with immigrants to help integrate them into the schools and society and overcome barriers. My desire to help children in poverty could be viewed as similar as both groups have barriers due to their status. Immigrants and poor people are looked upon as being less of a person. Each group I believe is affected by the conflict perspective. The unequal balance of power and resources prevents immigrants and poor people access to the same opportunities. If there is not a balance or equal opportunity to services and resources, how can immigrants and people living in poverty achieve the successes of those with access? The environment in which immigrants and poor people are exposed to everyday does not meet the basic needs of acceptance and hope. If children are to succeed in the classroom they must be given the tools and support to do so.

Things such as food, shelter and language are taken for granted by society when there is not a need. How is a child who cannot understand what a teacher is saying or is being bullied by other children because of their different speech or clothing achieving success in the classroom? How can a child who has not eaten since lunch in school the day before concentrate on what is being taught by the teacher? Society must take responsibility for these children. Social workers must advocate at all levels: micro and macro – to ensure immigrants and children of poverty are receiving equal access to opportunities available to others. Social workers and society cannot accept poverty as a norm. Social workers and society cannot accept lack of resources and/or funding an excuse to not properly educate children of immigrants.

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