Effects of Poverty on Child Development

Effects of Poverty on Child Development

Many organizations study the effects of poverty on child development, and in recent years there have been tremendous advancements to counter these impacts. According to UNICEF, “Children represent half of those struggling to survive on less than $1.90 a day.” About 1 billion children are multidimensionally poor, meaning they don’t have access to necessities like adequate food and clean water. Around the world, 356 million kids live in extreme poverty.[1]

The effects of poverty on child development are dire:

First, the effects of poverty on children impact their physical growth.

Starting in the womb, malnutrition of the mother can impact a baby’s development and health.[2] Once outside the womb, poverty continues to impact the child through hunger, lack of medical care, poor sanitation facilities and more. Children’s Bureau reports, “Poverty itself can negatively affect how the body and mind develop, and economic hardship can actually alter the fundamental structure of the child’s brain. Children who directly or indirectly experience risk factors associated with poverty have higher odds of experiencing poor health problems as adults, such as heart disease, hypertension, stroke, obesity, certain cancers, and even a shorter life expectancy.”[3]

Second, there are effects of poverty on education. It is very difficult for many parents to pay for education.

In some impoverished countries, public schools require tuition, making education unreachable for many. When school is offered for free, a family may not be able to afford required supplies, uniforms and other expenses, so they opt out of sending their children to be educated.

When children are able to attend school, there is a 90% chance that a child living in poverty will have one or more problems with speech, learning or emotional development.[4] This may be caused by malnutrition, lack of resources or other factors.

Another hindrance to education is that many children living in poverty are busy meeting the needs of the family. In areas where clean water is not accessible, children are often tasked with walking long distances during the day to collect water for their family. This makes it difficult to attend school. Another factor is child labor. Children are sometimes pulled from school and sent to work when a family cannot meet its financial obligations.

Third, poverty impacts mental health.

When a child’s situation seems hopeless, it affects them mentally.[5] Counseling or mental health assistance is rarely available since those around them are stuck in the same situations. Hopelessness is the norm.

Fourth, poverty impacts child mortality rates.

UNICEF reports, “Children from poor households die at twice the rate of their better-off peers.”[6]

Fifth, poverty impacts child development through the effects of poverty on society.

In countries with severe poverty, the cycle of poverty advances through generations. This impacts society and the economy in a variety of negative ways, resulting in, for instance, the lack of sanitation services, clean water and resources to help those in need.[7]

Selyne, a worker for GFA World in Asia, set out on a mission. She knew that girls were typically not given the same opportunity as their male siblings. She decided to go into the villages and look for girls from the poorest families who weren’t getting an education.

It wasn’t long before she met Ragna, an 11-year-old girl who was not able to attend school. As her family’s eldest child, she was tasked with completing most of the household responsibilities. She collected food and water, cleaned and took care of her siblings. Her father was a day laborer and struggled to bring in enough money to provide for the family’s daily needs.

Selyne told the girl’s parents about the benefits of GFA World’s Child Sponsorship Program. Through the program, Ragna would have the opportunity to chase her own dreams, especially an education. Her mother didn’t understand and shared her concerns that Ragna’s education wouldn’t matter once she was married. Her father understood the benefit of education, though, and knew it could forever change his daughter’s life.

“It was time to cut down the roots of wrong mindsets,” [Ragna] said. “I was always told that going to school didn’t matter, especially for girls, as their education would not be of any use to their parents. Now, I know better. [I] will go to school and attend the [sponsorship program]. I want to study further and dream to carve a different future for myself.”

Her life began to change. Ragna received tutoring assistance and school supplies and was nurtured by adults who cared for her and her family. She also learned about Jesus’ love for her. Over time, Ragna learned that she loves math and wants to be a teacher some day!

When Ragna’s mother saw the changes in her daughter and the benefit of the program, she was filled with joy. The parents even decided to enroll their son![8]

Through child sponsorship and accessibility to education, this family’s cycle of poverty will be broken. These children will have opportunities for higher-paying jobs and will likely make education an important aspect of their children’s lives one day. A child sponsored through GFA receives essentials like the ability to attend school, nutritious food, access to clean water, health check-ups, social and cultural experiences, tutoring care from a loving adult and the hope that comes from knowing God loves them.

Will you join us by sponsoring a child? You can have a part in ending the effects of poverty on child development.

Learn more about combating child labor

[1] “Child Poverty.” UNICEF. Accessed June 28, 2023. https://www.unicef.org/social-policy/child-poverty.
[2] “Maternal Nutrition.” UNICEF. 2022. https://www.unicef.org/nutrition/maternal.
[3] “Children in Poverty—Poverty and its Effects on Children.” Children’ Bureau. January 28, 2019. https://www.all4kids.org/news/blog/poverty-and-its-effects-on-children.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Reason Digital . 2019. “The Impact of Poverty on Child Mental Health.” Buttle UK. October 10, 2019. https://buttleuk.org/news/news-list/impact-of-poverty-on-child-mental-health/.
[6] “Child Poverty.” UNICEF. Accessed June 28, 2023. https://www.unicef.org/social-policy/child-poverty.
[7] “World Bank Urges Action to Break the Cycle of Poverty from Generation to Generation.” World Bank. October 17, 2017. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2017/10/17/world-bank-urges-action-to-break-the-cycle-of-poverty-from-generation-to-generation.
[8] “Education Opens Doors for Girls Future.” GFA World. February 2023. https://www.gfa.org/news/articles/education-opens-doors-for-girls-future-wfr23-02.