The Effects of Poverty on Early Childhood

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The Effects of Poverty on Early Childhood Education

Because poverty affects millions of children it can bring serious consequences to the development of early childhood education. As the on line dictionary website known as Wikipedia states: Poverty is the condition of lacking basic human needs such as nutrition, clean water, health care, clothing, and shelter because of the inability to afford them. This is also referred to as absolute poverty or destitution. Relative poverty is the condition of having fewer resources or less income than others within a society or country, or compared to worldwide averages. Similar symptoms of poverty are a lack of proper nutrition and health care, stress and exposure to violence and low quality parent-child interactions. These factors can affect the educational development of young children by placing them at risk. The term “at-risk” refers to children who are likely to fail in school because of their life’s social circumstances. (Leroy & Symes, 2001). Proper nutrition and quality health care is likely the most basic necessity for a child’s development. Without good nutrition and health a child’s brain does not develop or function to its full potential. In the mid 1960’s, animal studies showed that malnutrition could cause a decrease in brain volume, number of neurons, synapses and reactive zones. Researchers also observed problems with malnourished children as having attention dysfunction and impulsiveness, inability to cope with stressful situations and anxiety. (Levitsky and Strupp, 1995). A child that comes to school hungry and/or sick will not function as well as a healthy well-fed child would. Along with malnutrition comes illness, and in many cases children living in poverty are exposed to toxins from poor living conditions such as lead poisoning, and do not get regular health checks or have access to health care. In a study from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1988-1991 it was discovered that 16.3% of children who lived in poverty had lead poisoning above the boundaries set by the Centers for Disease Control as opposed to only 4.7% of children who lived above the poverty line. Although there are more government funded programs becoming available such as Early Head Start and Head Start that are helping children by providing well balanced and nutritious meals and access to health programs, these problems still remain prevalent when teaching children that have been affected by poverty. Another effect of poverty is stress and the exposure to violence. Some children experience periods of stress and violence from poverty or some experience a lifetime of it. Often times these children do not know what it is like to feel safe from harm, causing them to have extreme stress. The longer they are exposed to these problems causing them stress, the dire the outcomes. Dr. Holden, a child practitioner at the University of Texas at Austin states that a child’s exposure to violence can be associated with long term behavioral problems. Exposure to violence may include at home verbal and physical abuse, community violence or an eyewitness to violence. Some other problems from violence may include stress from rejection, isolation and neglect. These stressors in a child’s life can lead to aggressive or ant-social behavior, and in some cases may cause children to reenact such violence towards there peers, all adding to behavioral issues in school. ( Holden, 1998;). Early childhood professionals play an important role in helping children and their families. With children being exposed to violence in their homes and communities the teacher or caregivers can create an environment that will teach children to get along non-violently with others around them. (Morrison S. George, Early Childhood Education Today 2009). As a direct result from poverty comes violence in which children are affected by the stress that it creates,...
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