Our nation’s economic status has tremendously affected the lives of millions of Americans. “U.S. Census data reveals that from 2009 to 2010, the total number of children under age 18 living in poverty increased to 16.4 million from 15.5 million.” On that account there has been psychological research to show how poverty negatively impacts children at home, school, and in their communities.
Poverty can affect academic performance in a child. “The National Center for Education Statistics reports that in 2008, the dropout rate of students living in low-income families was about four and one-half times greater than the rate of children from higher-income families (8.7 percent versus 2.0 percent).” Inadequate education can contribute to the cycle of poverty and having less opportunity to thrive. Children living in poverty can also have emotional and behavioral problems. “Some behavioral problems may include impulsiveness, difficulty getting along with peers, aggression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conduct disorder.” Lastly, children living in poverty have an increased risk of health problems. Including low birth weight, exposure to environmental contaminants, and exposure to violence can lead to trauma.
After COVID-19 the rate of children struggling with hunger has spiked. There are many different effects of hunger and undernutrition on child development, including: prenatally, in infancy and early childhood, and in adolescence. Prenatally, “Maternal undernutrition during pregnancy increases the risk of negative birth outcomes, including premature birth, low birth weight, smaller head size and lower brain weight.” In infancy and early childhood, the first three years of life is when the brain grows the most therefore, “Too little energy, protein and nutrients during this sensitive period can lead to lasting deficits in cognitive, social and emotional
development.” Hunger also reduces a child’s motor skills. School age children who experience severe hunger may suffer from homelessness, chronic health conditions, stressful life conditions, psychiatric distress, behavioral problems, internalizing behavior, including depression, anxiety, and poor self-esteem.
Extreme poverty and hunger are the biggest risk factors for homelssness. “Homelessness and hunger are closely intertwined. Homeless children are twice as likely to experience hunger as their non-homeless peers. Hunger has negative effects on the physical, social, emotional and cognitive development of children.” Unfortunately, poverty, hunger, and homelessness are ongoing problems that need to be addressed daily and it has a great effect on the children who experience this. In order to help, citizens can come together and donate as well as donate to charities and other organizations.