Generational Poverty

Generational Poverty Mindset

A Generational poverty mindset occurs when a sense of hopelessness becomes the predominant feeling which shapes a person’s entire belief system and vision of the future.1 When children grow up watching their parents and grandparents struggle to put food on the table, it causes much more than hunger — it causes chronic stress.

This toxic stress not only leads to feelings of helplessness, but it also negatively effects children’s brain development, which can impede learning and overall health. Research has shown that poverty decreases cognitive capacity by about 13 IQ points.2

Poverty and poor health fuel one another.3 Poor nutrition and contaminated water negatively affect the brain and overall body. Poor health reduces the ability to be productive in work and/or school, which sets families back even more.

The struggle to survive from day to day strengthens the person’s mindset that they don’t have any power to improve their circumstances. A sense of helplessness stems from not knowing how to find support and resources.

When people can’t see a way out — and don’t physically feel well — motivation and energy decreases and they become trapped in their circumstances.

Breaking the Poverty Mindset

One of the most important ways to break the mindset of poverty is through hope, according to Eric Jensen, a neuroscientist in California.

“Although it is commonly seen as a wistful, intangible ideal, hope has the power to trigger change by influencing gene expression, which in turn changes the brain,” Jensen said.4

GFA generates hope by showing people the way out of poverty — both physically and mentally. Through child sponsorship and teaching adults skills they can use to earn a living wage and increase self-confidence.

Through the passion of national missionaries to help those in their moment of need, even by providing the most basic essentials like food and clean water, people are made to feel like they actually matter and are made to feel and know the love of Christ. Their thoughts become clear and their bodies have the energy to learn and/or work when children and adults are not battling hunger and illness brought on by poor nutrition and contaminated water.

You Can Help

Research shows that mindsets dictate success or failure. Dr. Carol Dweck, author of “Mindset: the New Psychology of Success,” asserts that how we view ourselves determines everything. She says that when we change our beliefs, our lives change.5 By supporting national missionary workers, and by giving toward GFA’s educational and health programs, those who are trapped with a poverty mindset can finally be set free.

Learn more about generational poverty

1 “What Causes Poverty.” Compassion International. Accessed June 2022.
2 “Breaking Down the Scarcity Mindset.” The Harvard Crimson.
3 “The Cycle of Poverty and Poor Health.” Health Poverty Action.
4 “Overcoming a Mindset of Poverty.” Borgen Magazine.
5 “Carol Dweck: A Summary of Growth and Fixed Mindsets.” FS (Farnam Street),