Any developmental gaps that appear in early childhood grow wider if left unaddressed. Children who lag behind in learning, knowledge and socio-emotional development find it increasingly difficult to catch up. Any lack in early childhood development can close doors later in life, trapping them in a life without resources, support, opportunity, and hope for improvement or change.
Growing up in poverty increases the physical and emotional stress in a child’s life. Lack of economic resources within a family increases a child’s vulnerability to exploitation, including child labor and trafficking.
This stress can also prompt negative biological changes in the cardiovascular, immune, neuroendocrine and cortical systems, which can have long-term implications for learning, decision-making and overall health and well-being.
Poor children also experience a disproportionate amount of neglect and social deprivation thanks to poverty. They are less likely to feel valued and loved. They often have lower self-esteem, less self-confidence, and greater incidences of mental health problems. They feel unsafe, marginalized, exceedingly vulnerable, and constantly threatened.
Children living in poverty are also more likely to be exposed to environmental toxins and other hazards, including crime and violence. Consider growing up in a slum without proper sanitation and clean water, where alcoholism, gang violence and drugs are prevalent. Even if not directly caught up in any violence, simply witnessing it, especially regularly, can adversely affect child development.
In the context of poverty, a holistic approach to child development is especially powerful. Breaking the cycle of deprivation, desperation and hopelessness offers poor children positive opportunities for growth. It helps untangle the culture of poverty and the lie of worthlessness before it can strangle a child.