According to the National
Center for Children in Poverty about 15 million children in the United States –
21% of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty
threshold. Experiencing life with poverty can have lasting affects on a person.
There are many factors that may lead to a person living in poverty. Below the
affect of childhood poverty regarding different aspects of development, how
living in poverty during childhood affects health outcomes and explore some
interventions to help ease the expanding number of children living in poverty
conditions.

            A person’s socioeconomic status influences a way an
individual develops. The child’s caregiver plays a large role in the child’s
development. Nutrition is a necessity to develop appropriately and “caregivers
who are not sensitive to developmental changes in infants’ nutritional needs,
neglectful caregivers, and conditions of poverty can contribute to the
development of eating problems in infants” (Santrock, 2016). A lack of interest
in proper nutrition of a child can lead to either obesity or a malnourished
child, both having their own long-term effects on the child’s health. The
child’s caregiver may have a diminished interest in the child’s developmental
needs due to constantly being away from the child at work to earn money to
provide additional necessities. A lack of presence by a caregiver can delay
speech development as they are not receiving needed communication interaction.
Child’s cognitive development may also suffer as they have no or poor
references on how to deal with stress. Often, it is not intentional, but the
caregiver is doing the best they can to continue to provide for the child. Poverty
is a leading factor to children being malnourished; “one of the most common
nutritional problems in early childhood is iron deficiency anemia, which
results in chronic fatigue” (Santrock, 2016). Due to constant feeling of being
tired these children may not be getting the amount of exercise they need to
keep up their physical stature. “The poor often experience hunger,
malnutrition, illness, inadequate access to health care, unsafe water, and a
lack of protection from harm” (Santrock, 2016) which all can lead to health
concerns later in life.

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            A child’s experience during their early years of life
“can influence patterns of illness, aging, and mortality later in life (Wise,
2016). Studies have been completed that link childhood socioeconomic status and
mental health later in life. During the early years of life “social isolation
and bulling during childhood can also affect the risk for adult depression and
related disorders” (Wise, 2016). What we experience as children influence how
we act and behave as adults. Many adults that have problems can relate the
onset to something from their past. Events often found in families in poverty
that can influence adulthood behaviors include parental maltreatment, parental
divorce, problems with early attachment, and substance abuse (Wise, 2016).
Being exposed to not so great living conditions of the less fortunate can cause
changes in immunology due to the environmental contamination they were exposed
to, which could lead to asthma or other endocrine issues. There are “approximately
30% of all children have some form of chronic health problem; approximately 15%
require an increased use of health care services and approximately 7.5% have a
condition that limits usual activities” (Wise, 2016) that follow the individual
into adulthood. This increase of children with more chronic diseases following
them into adulthood has led to a change healthcare and how we look at
prevention or treatment during childhood.

            As a nation we should not give up hope on our future
generation, as there are interventions we can put in place to help ease their
tribulations. Schubert & James mentioned a few interventions to include
“medical coverage, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, and
subsidized housing, can directly mitigate and reduce poverty” (2016). However,
the problem with some of these programs is that if a family or individual
relies or needs these programs earn slightly more than the requirement then
they become ineligible even though they are still in need. Another suggestion
would be frequent coaching and counseling for those who may be suffering from
inadequate housing, food insecurity, and money (Schubert & James, 2016).
Having someone that continually shows compassion and care about their wellbeing
can help that person feel more confident and hopeful about the future
possibilities. A major gap in creating a shift in downsizing the childhood
poverty epidemic is that the parents or caregivers do not have the resources
necessary to do so. To transform poverty’s influence in early life into adult
health problems they would need access to effective interventions. There has
been a positive step forward by the federal government, with Project Head
Start, which helps kids in low-income families gain the skills needed to have
the right foot forward in school (Santrock, 2015)

            There may be many children currently
living in poverty, but that doesn’t need to hold them back. A person’s past
will always influence how they are as an adult, but for those who started in
poverty with the assistance of some interventions can turn their futures
around. How a child living in poverty develops does not have to stop them from
breaking the cycle, there are ways that poverty will influence their heath as
an adult, but there are also programs and interventions to help change the
outcome. Schubert and James said it best with “our future as a nation is tied
to the success of these children. We need to make sure that all children have
the opportunity to succeed, and children whose family circumstances are more
challenging need more help” (2016).