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How Does Poverty Affect A Child?

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Young People
Wordcount: 2654 words Published: 17th May 2017

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“State parties recognise the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child`s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development. ” (UN Convention, Article 27) (Daniel, P, 1998, p50)

There are two definitions of poverty; absolute and relative. Absolute poverty refers to a set of standards which is the same in all countries and which does not change over time, whereas relative poverty refers to a standard which is defined in terms in which the individual lives. In Britain we refer to relative poverty when discussing poverty, according to End child poverty. Org (2009) 4 million children, one in three, are currently living in poverty in the UK, http://www.endpoverty.org/

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Any household with an income of less than 60% of the British Median is classified as in poverty. The official cut off line is £199 per week for single parents and £283.20 for a two parent family after housing has been paid (Gentleman, Amelia, 2009) It is often argued that if children are housed, fed and have access to free healthcare that they have nothing to complain about, Hilary Fisher, director of the campaign to End Child Poverty would disagree stating “half Dickensian, half wartime, with images of children in ill-fitting clothes, is very far from reality.” People have peculiarly outdated conceptions of British poverty (Gentleman, Amelia, 2009) http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/mar/18/child-poverty-labour-eradicate-promise

“Providing a week’s worth of meals for three people for £6.66 a head is easy once you work out how, .The gas and electricity payments for the week have already been made, so she knows the children will be warm.” A mother’s words quoted from an article from The Guardian. She also rejects the suggestion that her family might be described as poor. “Oh no,” she says firmly. “We get by. http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/mar/18/child-poverty-labour-eradicate-promise

Poverty usually means children miss out on school trips, do not have adequate winter clothing and aren’t able to enjoy leisure activities with their peers. As a result, their education suffers – making it difficult to get the qualifications they need to move on to sustainable, well-paid jobs. This limits their potential to earn the money needed to support their own families in later life, and so a cycle of poverty is created.

According to Rowntree the two most significant causes of child poverty are long-term unemployment and the growing number of low paid jobs. (Daniel, P, 1998, p59) Children who grow up in poverty face a greater risk of having poor health, being exposed to crime and failing to reach their full potential. http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/everychildmatters/strategy/parents/childpoverty/childpoverty/

Childhood is the most vulnerable time of life and health inequalities can have lasting effects throughout life. “Good health in the early years lays the foundations for positive development.” http://www.hmg.gov.uk/newopportunities/early_years/priority.aspx

Katy Morton says children living in poverty are more likely to be obese and have poor dental health. (Nursery World). Obesity can lead to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis and some cancers. http://www.food.gov.uk/science/dietarysurveys/lidnsbranch/

Attachment theory is the joint work of John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth (Ainsworth & Bowlby, 1991). He thereby revolutionized our thinking about a child’s tie to the mother and its disruption through separation, deprivation, and bereavement. Mary Ainsworth contributed the concept of the attachment figure as a secure base from which an infant can explore the world. http://www.psychology.sunysb.edu/attachment/online/inge_origins.pdf.

Poverty reduces the parental bond and attachment between parent and child, due to the parent being pre-occupied with financial problems, housing worries and health problems, according to studies of parents in poor families (Huston, 199; McLoyd, 1990; Sampson & Laub, 1994) (Rudolph Schaffer, H, p346)

This could be argued that children whose parents are out of work and are at home with the children may have a better attachment with their children due to time spent at home` the first few months are vital in order for babies to form healthy attachments.` http ://www.hmg.gov.uk/newopportunities/early_years/priority.aspx

These studies also suggested that child that come from poorer homes often live in a chaotic and disorganized manner due to parents being too busy with their own problems and that children would more likely to be attracted to playing in the street and are more likely to come to harm within the home and outside of the home. That parents are more likely to use `erratic` and ` disciplinary techniques` to use physical punishment on their children. (Rudolph Schaffer, H, p346)

Many children who face poverty escape damage and develop into well-functioning adults. (Rudolph, Schaffer, H, p347) Poverty does not always lead to inadequate parenting but can have great effects on the children`s self esteem and self image leading to depression and worthlessness. (Rudolph, Schaffer, H, p347)

Children who have intellectual, athletic or artistic talent which leads to fulfilment are more likely to follow acceptable pathways rather than leading into anti-social behaviour, violence and crime. (Rudolph, Schaffer, H, p347) Where children who come from poverty their parents may not be able to afford the fees for such activities and not be able to fund the equipment needed, this could result in the child not being able to develop their talents. (Rudolph, Schaffer, H, p347)

It was in 1867 that Thomas Barnado set up the Ragged School and starting helping the abused, vulnerable, forgotten and neglected children of east London and his work still continues today. `Barnardo’s vision today is that the lives of all children and young people should be free from poverty, abuse and discrimination. Barnardo’s believe in the abused, the vulnerable, the forgotten and the neglected. We pledge to support them, stand up for them and bring out the best in each and every child` http://www.barnardos.org.uk/who_we_are/history.htm

A government-commissioned report on health inequalities will provide “a key influence” on future public health policy in the UK, according to Health Secretary Frank Dobson the Acheson report published in 1998 demonstrates the existence of health disparities and their relationship to social class, the report calls for an increase in benefits for expectant mothers as they have inadequate diets.

There is substantial evidence that reduced breast-feeding, small-for-gestational-age birth weight, Fe and I deficiency, and protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) are associated with long-term deficits in cognition and school achievement. However, all these conditions are associated with poverty and poor health, according to a report by S. M. Grantham-McGregor, S. P. Walker and S. Chang http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayFulltext?type=1&fid=796168&jid=PNS&volumeId=59&issueId=01&aid=796156 Cognitive development are stages that children have to pass through to understand and make sense of the world around them as stated by Piaget (Kehily, M, J, pg, 145, 2009)

Also stating that poverty has a disproportionate effect on children, and children under two are more expensive to look after than older children, but Income Support levels do not reflect this. Furthermore it states that many low income families do not have enough money to buy the items and services necessary for good health, meaning that money for food is often used to meet emergencies. The report calls for more funding for schools in deprived areas, better nutrition at schools and “health promoting schools”. Promoting health through the curriculum, offering free fresh fruit and avoid putting sweet machines on the premises. The report also states children from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve less at school than other children and are more likely to go on to get badly paid jobs or be unemployed. This leads to a vicious circle of health problems associated with low income and a perpetuation of the poverty trap. The poor are also twice as likely to have drink problems as the rich. Seventeen per cent of poor men and 6% of poor women has an alcohol problem, compared with 8% of rich men and 3% of rich women.


Men and women with a lower level of educational achievement tended to have a ‘less healthy’ diet according to results from The Low Income Diet and Nutrition Survey (LIDNS). http://www.food.gov.uk/science/dietarysurveys/lidnsbranch/

In Britain in 1997, one home in every three was classified as a low-income household. With children being raised in poverty were less likely to attend school on a regular basis, not progressing on to further education and gaining qualifications to lead into employment. Girls were more likely to become young mothers and to fall into the same cycle of deprivation as their parents. There is a strong link between childhood experiences and adult life-chances. Former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, pledged in 1999, to end child poverty by 2020 with an interim target to halve child poverty by 2010/11. http://www.insidegovernment.co.uk/children/child_poverty/

Children living in poverty usually have to live in poor housing conditions, this can lead to the child having health problems like asthma, bronchitis,

living in bad housing can cause severe ill-health and disability before they reach middle age. they are more likely to be absent from school, child development suffers due to their home being cold and damp, their chest hurts when they breathe, and not being able to sleep at night, when the heating does not work as an article by lisa Harker states. http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2006/sep/13/comment.guardiansocietysupplementEvery Child Matters government programme for child welfare picks out health, safety, economic well-being, making a positive contribution, enjoying and achieving as the critical factors that shape children’s lives, there is no explicit recognition of the role that housing plays –

Children’s mental health is also affected. According to` The Shelter` children are teased at school because their clothes smell of damp, which affects self-confidence and they have low self-esteem.’ The condition of the house makes it difficult children to have friends round to play, which impacts on their social development. http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Society/documents/2006/09/12/Lifechancereport.pdf

In 1999 the Government made it a priority to eradicate child poverty within a generation. The Child Poverty Bill was introduced to provide a statutory basis for the commitment made by the government in 1999 to eradicate child poverty by 2020.


`Sure Start brings together childcare, early education, health and family-support services for families with children under 5 years old. It is the cornerstone of the Government’s drive to tackle child poverty and social exclusion working with parents-to-be, parents, carers and children to promote the physical, intellectual and social development of babies and young children so that they can flourish at home and when they get to school.` http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/everychildmatters/earlyyears/surestart/aboutsurestart/aboutsurestart/

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From April 2009 expectant mothers are able to get a one-off, tax-free payment called the Health in Pregnancy Grant. The grant is a one-off payment of £190 the money is to help parents with cost of a new baby. http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/hipg/what-is-it.htm#1 also a way of encouraging pregnant women to eat more healthily, to spend more money on fruit and vegetables. This was argued by Dr Mark porter from the Times that many mothers to be would spend the grant on `booze` and `fags` rather than on enriching food for their unborn. Recent research has shown that the nutritional status of the mother during pregnancy can have a profound long-term impact on her unborn baby’s health. This can alter the baby’s metabolism, permanently increasing the likelihood of a range of problems in adult life, including obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/features/article6086365.ece

Expectant mothers not having the sufficient vitamin can have greater risk of children developing diabetes, multiple sclerosis and possibly even autism according to Dr Mark Porter from The Times. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/features/article6086365.ece

ADHD is associated with children of low birth weight; tobacco, alcohol and cocaine abuse during pregnancy although there is little evidence that ADHD can arise purely out of social or environmental factors such as poverty, family chaos, diet or poor parent management (Barkley, 1990).


The strong association noted in a study between maternal mental health and childhood ADHD, single-parent families of lower income may be the most affected population.


The Government introduced the Child Benefit in 1977 replacing family allowances and child tax allowances it is a tax-free payment that can be claimed for children. . There are two separate amounts, with a higher amount for the eldest (or only) child of £20.00 a week £13.20 a week for any other children. Child Benefit is flat-rate and not age-related. `The case for age relation is that children become more expensive as they grow older. ` .http://www2.rgu.ac.uk/publicpolicy/introduction/socialsecurity.htm?CFID=538533&CFTOKEN=eec3c7817f178fc-6136AFC9-D609-CB06-42FF4E4FAC7FCB18&jsessionid=5030a3ed25e20497a47539430a692d643d45TR

Child Trust Fund (CTF) is a savings and investment account for children. Children born on or after 1 September 2002 will receive a £250 voucher to start their account. The account belongs to the child and can’t be touched until they turn 18, so that children have some money behind them to start their adult life.

Working Tax Credits was introduced in 1998 with the child care tax credit contributing to 70% of childcare for most families to help them back into work. (Pugh, G, p12, 2010)

According to a report by Steve Doughty, Labours Tax Credits is being blamed for the break-up of families and the doubling of divorce rates in low income families with children. Ministers acknowledge that children being raised by married couples or complete family units are more likely to do better at school, have a better diet and are less likely to turn to crime and unemployment as those children coming from single parent families and step families. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1158700/Tax-credits-DO-help-break-families-Parents-encouraged-divorce-claim-higher-benefits-says-report.html Tax Credits is to blame for the extra 45,000 extra babies born yearly according to research from the Fiscal Studies.

With all the help from the government and all the incentive schemes why do children still living in poverty, do parents need to be better educated and should children learn money management at school. The Government’s Every Child Matters Outcomes Framework should be revised to reflect the direct impact that housing has on all aspects of children’s life chances


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