Social and Emotional Development of Low Income Children
Growing up within a family living with a low socioeconomic status can have a detrimental effect on a child’s social and emotional development. Some factors that may be affected by a low economic status are weakened family and peer relations, lowered self-esteem, the tendency for aggression, as well as health problems. Not necessarily though does this always have a detrimental effect on children; it may serve constructively as well. A family that deals with hardships constantly when it comes to finances may have a variety of effects on a child’s development. There tends to be a chain of events that may occur, in this type of situation.
Parents that experience the pressure from unstable employment, and possibly many debts, may feel that they cannot cope with their financial problems. They then may have the tendency to become moody or depressed, which in turn may cause marital conflict. This marital conflict may disrupt the parent’s ability to be a supporting, involved and nurturing parent. This, according to Davies & Cummings (1998), may contribute to child and adolescent problems, such as low self-esteem, poor school performance, poor peer relations, and behaviour problems such as depression, hostility and anti-social conduct. Trust versus Mistrust
According to Erikson, the first stage of psychosocial development is when a child develops a sense of trust or mistrust depending on the regularity of care, love and affection they receive from their primary caregiver. Therefore, when children feel like they are not being supported and nurtured by their caregivers, they may question the trust that they should have in them, as well as other adults. They may also question why their parents are not able to supply them with the things that they need to get by in life, such as clothing or a safe home, or things others may take for granted such as hydro, water and heat. This again, can question that trust they may have for their caregivers. Low Self-Esteem
Like stated above, these children may not have much clothing, as well as a means to keep good hygiene, which in turn may result in them being ostracized by their peers. These children that are ostracized by their peers obviously end up having problems with making and keeping ‘true’ friends. This in turn can result in a lowered self-esteem for the child. When they feel low about themselves, they frequently may exhibit behaviours such as crying, worrying, fear, distress, or trouble enjoying themselves. Lowered self-esteemed children are also more prone to psychological disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Once depressed they tend to have feelings of powerlessness. When these feelings start to take over the children, they may become suicidal, change their eating and sleeping habits, lose interest in activities that they once enjoyed, as well as have persistent feelings of gloom and helplessness. Along with these feelings of depression these children may start to make poor decisions which can result in withdrawn, anti-social behaviour. Anti-Social Behaviours
Poor decisions that lower income status children may make include skipping school, shoplifting, dealing or trying drugs, or all out aggressive behaviour. These children are more likely to miss out on so much of their schooling, whether it is due to skipping classes or the tendency for their family to move various times and having to switch schools numerous times. They are missing out on the opportunity for intellectual stimulation and success in school. This may result in academic failure. Due to the possibility of academic failure, these children negatively spiral downward and tend to have weaker social skills. They have more likelihood to eventually end up either unemployed as adults, or working dead end, minimum wage jobs, continuing the vicious cycle of living in poverty. Children growing up in a lower income family also have the tendency to choose behaviours that they may think will give them a sense of belonging.
They may hang around with children who may themselves already get into trouble, and behave making poor choices for themselves. These negative behaviours include shoplifting, trying drugs or alcohol, or becoming part of a gang. Some of these behaviours are deemed minor, as these children are just trying to find their place in the world. According to Erikson the fifth stage of psychological development is identity versus role confusion. With those children who have grown up in a low income family, they tend to struggle even more so with this stage. They make their poor choices, because they are trying even harder to fit in, due to all the rejection and ostracizing that they have experienced over the years. Others may try the drugs and alcohol because they believe that it is a way to forget about all of their problems at home. Becoming part of a gang may make the child feel like they actually belong to a family that will finally be able to take care of them, again taking away from their problems.
However, frequently that type of a ‘family’ is not a safe family to become a part of and is often short lived. Another anti-social behaviour that these children have the tendency to participate in is sexual misconduct. This could be a clear result of peer pressure, but could also be because the child again wants to feel like they belong somewhere. They are at risk of becoming part of a hostile and possibly abusive romantic relationship. Also, they may be inclined to enter parenthood prematurely, which they are ill-prepared to handle. This in turn can result in them becoming the unresponsive, non-nurturing parents that their parents were. Then their children may participate in the same types of behaviours during childhood and adolescence that they did, and the circle continues. Aggression
Children who have grown up with a low socioeconomic status may also have the inclination to be aggressive. They may have grown up with a family where aggression is a suitable way to deal with their problems, and they were frequently subject to physical discipline. Or perhaps they grew up in a neighbourhood where it is socially acceptable to be aggressive, and violence happens quite frequently. According to Osofsky (1995) nearly half of inner-city elementary and high school students have witnessed at least one violent crime in the past year. This may result in the children not only demonstrating aggressive behaviour, but experiencing flashbacks or intrusive memories of such events. These neighbourhoods are chaotic environments to grow up in, that are far more stressful than other social classes. Not only does the neighbourhood a child grows up in affect their behaviour, it may also affect their health. The neighbourhood may lack in many resources that would serve beneficial to those living in poverty. Nutrition and Health
One main resource that a neighbourhood may be without is a grocery store that offers a variety of healthy food. This results in children receiving an inadequate consumption of the daily required nutrients. Eventually this may lead to the larger problem of malnutrition. Malnutrition causes many
problems, including missing school, slowed growth, irritability and illness. Not eating breakfast before school or having enough to eat for lunch or dinner is stressful enough for a child, without accentuating the impact it has on their health. These children are at greater risk for a number of health problems, than their peers who are from a different economic status.
These children’s health is not only affected by the lack of nutrition they are receiving, it may also be affected by the lack of health care they receive. When pregnant the mother tends to not get sufficient prenatal care. Therefore, without enough prenatal care, there may be a chance that the child is born with a disability. Once the child is born, with or without a disability, they may delay many required medical appointments, as well as immunizations. The child may end up sick in bed for many days, which may result in missed school days if they fall into that age group. They also may not get the necessary care required for their eyes and teeth, thus developing possible problems in both of these areas. Positive Outlook
Although many children living in poverty grow up to deal with many of the issues previously mentioned, this is not necessarily the case for all of them. This is a result of the different patterns in child-rearing. Some parents may be higher educated than others, or have better coping strategies than others. According to Kelley, Sanchez-Hucles, & Walker (1993) they tend to talk to their children more frequently, are more responsive, and provide more intellectual stimulations than do equally poor parents with lower levels of education. However children are reared in a low income environment, they may experience quite different living conditions as well as interactions with their parents. Thus, resulting in those children modelling how they were raised, when raising their own children. When looking at children living in families of poverty from this aspect, we can see that it serves constructively. My Own Experience Living In Poverty
Once I came back to school and started to learn about the different theorists, I found that I related to Erikson’s theory when it came to my growing up in a low economic status family. I didn’t know what to think or who to trust when I was little, because I did not have the same things as other kids. I often questioned if it was my fault that I didn’t have those things; because if I hadn’t been born, my parents would not have to worry about buying those required things. I had a hard time dealing with peers, because many of them made fun of me because of the clothes that I wore or the fact I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich only, in my lunch every day. This is when I realized that I definitely held onto stages four and five of Erikson’s Psychosocial Development, for quite some time. I wasn’t sure where I belonged and if I had true friends.
The only thing I was always sure of was my family’s love for me. I eventually grew to realize that it was not my fault; it was just the way things were. Now that I am older, I now know that I also felt like I would be isolated by others if I didn’t find intimacy; therefore, I found that as soon as possible after leaving my mother’s home. I tend to still live in quite the same conditions I did as a child, except I make sure that I am able to get my children all the necessities, and the wants just get put on hold for a while. I wish for them to reach every stage of psychosocial development that they are intended too, with as much ease as humanly realistic. Living within an economically low status may have detrimental effects on children’s social and emotional development, such as weakened family and peer relations, lowered self-esteem, the tendency for aggression, as well as health problems. It can also serve constructively to some families, depending on the family. It may simply be based on how the family chooses to look at their life and the way that they choose to cope with the financial stressors they face every day. References
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