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Essay on Child Poverty

By Gracedennis1 Jun 29, 2013 2842 Words
Causes, consequences and challenges
Of child poverty
One of the major causes of childhood poverty is parental income which is one of a large complementary factors. To name a few; environmental, communal, political,, and societal influences all play a role. As an example consider that; with the ever progressive move from a widespread agricultural, to a more localised industrial society, the number of jobs in many areas has decreased severely. And so the average number of "non-educated" workmen (or women) has subsequently decreased also. More and more Britain's are joining the ranks of the poor each day (roughly 2,000). And with parents out of work and not earning, children will suffer as a result. Every day 1 in every 4 children is born into poverty. (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 1995) This can lead to a number of consequences in children, which follows with them throughout adolescence and into adulthood. For example, children who grow up in families with a low income are more likely to experience mental health problems, and more likely to develop unhealthily. Greg Duncan found associations between poverty and poor health, cognitive development, behaviour, emotional well being and academic achievement. He also found that pregnant mothers who have insufficient resources such as food and warmth are 1.7 times more likely to give birth to a low weight baby, that child is then 2 times more likely to drop out of school, and 3.1 times more likely have an out of wed-lock birth (Duncan 1997). Although short term poverty can be overcome and the effects are reversible, long term poverty can be destructive on a child's life. Duncan found that children who had experienced 4-5 years of their early years of life in poverty, achieved a full 9 year decline on intelligence test scores compared to children from healthy backgrounds (Duncan 1997). The standards of living associated with children from poor families can have a negative effect on their health. For example, they are more vulnerable to asthma due to poor ventilation, as well as pneumonia due to poor insulation. Interestingly, they are also more vulnerable to developing obesity since a high carbohydrate, processed diet is the cheaper option. Those children are often excluded from participating in social activities, through both financial disadvantages as well as feeling the pressure of social stigma - which can develop from having to dress inappropriately, or through receiving charity food, books, furniture and other necessities. It leads to a loss of self esteem, can be de-motivating, leads to less elevation after the simplest of pleasures, and poor ability to cope with stressful situations. Not only are they more likely to develop psychological problems as a result, these effects last longer than in those who are well off. And this leads to a vicious cycle of depression, leading to increased likelihood of a stressful event, leading to further depression. This can also lead to long term, irreversible changes in personality, such as; self defeatist attitudes, hopelessness, helplessness, low motivation, low drive, bitterness, aggressiveness and anti social personality disorder. Children with the latter are seen to be impulsive, have high sensation seeking, but without sense of morals or justice. It is often associated with young offenders, school drop outs, and those serving long term sentences. For these reasons, it is necessary for social workers; to get into family homes, assess their state of living, their needs, risk factors, problems, difficulties and anything else that is helpful for them to make an accurate evaluation, and to give them a better understanding. Late interventions can be damaging, for the longer things are kept untreated the harder they are to change. It is important that children are given opportunities in life to maximise their potential and make a contribution to society. Without the proper guidance and support, they are likely to sink further and further. So it is clear that help is required. Childhood poverty holds great relevance for social workers for it defines their very existence. If the role of social workers is to promote well being in the community, and to help young individuals achieve their potential and to function in society, then those in poverty will be the people who need help most. The Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey (PSE Survey, Joseph Rowntree Foundation 1999), which collected a number of individuals portraying an average society, found that 28% of the population were in poverty. Each of them were presented with 52 cards, each revealing an object or activity, such as central heating, a computer, going to the cinema. They were instructed to form two piles; one for items they believed were vital for living, the other for those which were not. For all those items where the majority voted them to be vital, researchers concluded that every person should have at least these in their lives. Social workers may use this as a base line when assessing families, and when children lack any (or all) of these so called necessities (i.e. are in poverty) then help should be provided; for without it, children will likely grow up depressed, suicidal or conversely, aggressive and violent. Children are vulnerable to feelings of hopelessness due to this lack of necessities.A build up of long term worries accompanying a loss of control combined with a sense of dependence, is likely to lead to distress. Chronic anxiety and even depression is not uncommon, which can be exacerbated by an oppressive society. Children from poorer backgrounds are well recognised as they are the ones who do not go on school trips, may dress differently to the rest, not have the correct equipment in lessons, have a more definable smell (not a pleasant one) etc. For those who spend time with such children it is likely they will be excluded from social groups as a result; Society recognises and treats differently any person (adults too) who stands out for whatever reason good or bad. Of course they are no different from the next person; however it is because others see them as different that they are made to feel paranoid. Paranoid that wherever they are people are staring at them, talking about them, thinking all sorts of thoughts. It is enough to cause any child, adult, man or woman huge distress and can affect their ability to be trusting around complete strangers. Constantly obsessing over one's situation will inevitably drain a child of their strength and make them feel weak, which subsequently will increase the level of stress felt. Here can be seen a vicious cycle, one which is hard to recover from without the appropriate help. Furthermore, it is often the case that parents are made to feel just as bad, if not worse. The negativity that radiates off of a child is bound to have implications, especially when he/she cannot have things that all their friends can. Parents have failed as providers and this can lead to a loss of motivation and of despair. So, childhood poverty have effect for the rest of the family, and therefore makes it more probable they will seek social service's aid. For example, schoolyard bullying can decrease a child's self esteem and affect their ability to form secure, long term relationships. This can lead to turmoil between parents and children, for parents will feel they have lost family connections. As a result, they become depressed and will seek guidance in parenting techniques. Another example would be a child whose parent cannot afford to buy them nice things such as clothes, toys or school equipment. Daily exposure to those who do have such possessions is likely to cause the child jealousy and envy; both at those children who take luxuries for granted, and also at their parents for not being able to provide. Because of the psychological issues that this can lead to, it is likely the child grows up with a desire to steal, spawned from a lifetime of unfulfilment. If they however, grow up with certain morals and choose not to steal, it is still possible that they resort to drugs/and or alcohol as a means of coping. Coping with the consuming hatred and loathe of society that has become them. Families in poverty are less able to provide for themselves, and so there is large chance that children will have to be taken away into care. Thus, a great deal of social worker's time is spent "within and around those in poverty" (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Exclusion Unit, 2004). Childhood poverty can lead to severe ramifications, both physical and mental, some of which people recover from in time while others can be long lasting. It is considered the universal belief poverty is as much a cause as well as an effect of mental health problems. Evidence for this comes from impoverished families from lower class areas. Not only are these areas receiving low government funding they also have little support from neighbouring councils; research shows that these areas have the largest number of children with mental health problems (Department of Health, 1999b). It is clear that the linearity between poverty and wellbeing is long winded. Two possible theories however have met support, both social causation ('breeder') (SC) and social selection ('drift') (SS). SS describes how the accumulation of adolescents suffering mental issues, who live in poor areas, is the result of a continuous drifting towards the lower spectrum of education and while losing contact with social networks. In contrast, SC describes how a neglected socio-economic climate can have negative consequences on childhood well being to start with. From this it is to be concluded that: poor children have lifelong experience living in high risk areas, risk defined as: high chance of unemployment, growing up to rely on benefits, of teenage pregnancies, families separated, crime, street violence, rape, vandalism, malnutrition, obesity etc. Those at high risk are more likely to experience mental problems because their minds are already overburdened with every day worry. Furthermore, those at high risk are less likely to be treated for their illness because the local medical facilities are of low quality, have fewer staff and are constantly over worked. Child poverty therefore starts within neglected communities and leads to a number of psychological issues. A further difficulty is that the increase in mentally disturbed individuals can further exacerbate the ability to cope in others. That is, exposure to stressors causes stress, therefore numbers are continuously risen. Individualists are of the opinion that people are responsible for their circumstances, and have devised several theories of their own. Firstly is the idea of culture, which draws from the research of Oscar Lewis (1966) on Puerto Rican and Mexican families. He acknowledged that children are brought up to appreciate certain values, which they identify with themselves and in time teach their own offspring thus continuing the cycle. And so for those families in poverty, who have low self esteem, motivation, a sense of helplessness etc, they will pass on their negative attitudes through each generation. They will also pass on (through learning and modelling) their negative behaviours, such as drinking, violence, staying at home and not finding work, adultery, divorce, etc. And so this creates a culture of poverty, the fundamental cause being family (specifically parental) influences on their child. follow the same patterns of development and hold similar preferences once they reach adulthood themselves. And so the cycle is endless. Child poverty results from both parents growing up in a relatively similar way. show a compassion for achieving that, although did not come from either parent, was just good fortune. And finally is the concept of underclass, which Jones and Novak(1999) describe as a brutal victim-blaming theory. They went on to write how poverty is caused by people's behaviours and not their circumstances. For example there are many who go through periods of unemployment, are made redundant from current jobs, or who lose money due to household repairs, hospital bills, child support, etc. But of those people, not all of them sink into deprivation, the majority pick themselves up and go on to find something else, or look for support from friends and family until something comes along. Novak and Jones saw the problem to be those who come to rely on income support as a way of living. They were even more so concerned with the children who grow up in impoverished families, learning destructive values and beliefs and growing up to become delinquents. For these, poverty will continue across generations to come. Arguments against the underclass concept revolve around the fact that it negates consideration of structural factors as a cause of poverty, and the lack of evidence to support any of the suggestions made. Despite the criticisms to Individualistic theories, they still hold a high power in modern society. Politicians like Tony Blair for example have stated: "This cycle of deprivation is bad for everyone. But it is particularly unfair for children who miss out on opportunities because they inherit the disadvantage faced by their parents, so their life chances are determined by where they come from rather than who they are". The final theory looks at structural explanations for child poverty, primarily directed at the economic standards for any area, child development services on offer, and various other components which form the foundations for living. Supporters of this view takes a Marxist approach; that a class system is necessary, for those at the higher end rely on those at the lower end to provide them with work staff, who they exploit and employ on menial wages. And so there will always be poverty, well at least until capitalism is defeated. Or when society moves towards equality of all its members irrespective of their situation and/or upbringing. Such a concept seems unlikely, as it lacks a sense of fairness to those who see themselves as more deserving. Although it is a misconception that those people in poverty have brought it upon themselves, there is a grain of truth in the matter. The actuality is that those well off have earned it, through hard work and good business sense, while many of those in poverty never managed to do well in school, missed out on opportunities, and failed to achieve. Child poverty results from a continuation of generations of un-achievers, and so there will always be able bodies to recruit into the unprofessional workforce. In conclusion, there are numerous causes for child poverty, but at its roots the government has stated that worklessness is their primary concern, which interacts alongside with family dysfunction, neglect and insecure attachments, low quality day-care and schooling, and state of neighbourhood. With fewer work opportunities more people are having to settle for meagre salaries until something better comes along (which it won't). There is also an increase in the number of single parents, due to increases in death rates and divorce among the poor. With only one source of income, and a loss of support when it comes to raising children, single parents are forced to depend on income support. As a result, they will never manage to find their way out of poverty. References

* Bailey and Brake, Corrigan and Leonard, Bolger, Becker and MacPherson, & Adams, The British Journal of Social Work; Poverty and Social Justice, Oxford Journals, 1975, 1978, 1981, 1988, & 1998. * Blair, T. Breaking the Cycle: Taking stock of progress and priorities for the future; A Report by the Social Exclusion Unit. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister; London. ODPM publications, 2004. * Bruce, M. L. & Hoff, R. A. Social and physical health risk factors for first-onset major depressive disorder in a community sample. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 29, 165-171, 1994 * Cooley, C. Human Nature and the Social Order, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, revised edn, 1922 * Denham, A. & Garnett, M. From the cycle of enrichment to the cycle of deprivation: Sir Keith Joseph, problem families and the transmission of disadvantage. Policy Press; Benefits, Volume 10,Number 3, pp. 193-198(6), 1 October 2002 * Department of Health Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation. London: Stationery Office, 1999b * Duncan, G. J. & Brooks-Gunn, J. Consequences of Growing Up Poor. New York: Russell Sage, 1997 * Gans, H. The Uses of Poverty: The Poor Pay All, Social Policy: pp20-24, July/ August 1971 * Jarvis, E. (1971) Insanity and Idiosy in Massachusetts: Report of the Commission of Lunacy, 1855. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971 * Jones, C and Novak, T. Poverty, welfare and the disciplinary state. London: Routledge, 1999 * Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Inquiry into income and wealth. Volumes 1 and 2. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 1995 * Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Becker, Smale, & Social Exclusion Unit, Sociology and Social Work; Poverty and Social Work Service Users, Learning Matters, 1995, 1997, 2000, & 2004. * Langner, T. S. & Michael, S. T. Life Stress and Mental Health. London: Collier-Macmillan, 1963 * Lewis, O. The Children of Sanchez. New York: Random House, 1967. * Novak, T. Critical Social Policy; Rethinking Poverty. Vol 15, Sage Journals, 1995 The PSE survey

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