Poverty shapes how children think about themselves

Posted on May 27, 2015

"The Culture of Poverty”, published in 1966 (pdf), was hugely influential, persuading many policy makers that children from low-income families are destined for lives of “criminality, joblessness, and poverty” because they exist in enclaves characterised by dysfunctional beliefs and practices. Thankfully, this fatalistic view has since been largely refuted and attention has turned to ways to help poor children, including giving them access to books, good teachers and stable environments.

Now a review from the University of Massachusetts has highlighted a different way that poverty can leave a lasting impression on children: by altering their psychological states in ways that shape their future. This sounds like a bleak picture, but the review urges the situation is one we can combat.

Authors Amy Heberle and Alice Carter point out that adults belonging to a disadvantaged group are vulnerable to a pair of effects: higher levels of stress when their low status is made clear to them, termed status anxiety; and underperformance on a task when reminded that their social group is stereotypically poor at the task, termed stereotype threat. If these phenomena apply to young children, as Heberle and Carter propose, then even if they have a stable, stress-free family life, poor kids are likely to generate their own stress and underperform simply through awareness of their own in-poverty status.

Click on the link below to read the full article


Category(s):Child Development

Source material from British Psychological Society


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