The Effects of Poverty on Child Development – How Low Income & Poverty Affects Child Development

Studies throughout the world have documented the association between poverty and children’s health and development.

 Child Poverty and Health

 A recent study by Zéphyr Ehounoux, Maria Victoria, Louise Séguin et al. (the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development) suggests long-term poverty in early childhood creates a risk of growth retardation between the ages of two-and-a-half and four. According to their research findings, poor children are shorter than their richer peers.

 Researchers questioned 1929 mothers about the size of their children and economic situation, firstly when the children were two-and-a-half years old and the second time, when they were four. Questions mothers were asked included whether the mothers had sufficient money to provide for the essential needs of their children including food, clothing, heating, housing, drugs and transport.

It was found that under privileged children were smaller than their non-poor friends, regardless of their mother’s size. According to Dr Louise Seguin, a professor with the University of Montreal, poverty often generates health issues like malnutrition, problems in development and stress.

 Poverty, Low-income Households and Child Development

 In another study, Jeanne Brooks-Gun and Greg J Duncan focused their attention on national longitudinal data sets to estimate the effects of family income on children’s lives independent of other family conditions that may be related to growing up in a low-income household. Their aim was to understand the relationship between low income and the consequences of children growing up poor.

 These studies showed that children from low-income families in the United States suffered higher incidences of adverse health compared with non-poor children.

It was found that deficits in children’s nourishment was associated with poverty. Children living below the poverty threshold are 1.3 times as likely as nonpoor children to experience learning disabilities and developmental delays. Poverty status has a small negative impact on high school graduation and years of schooling obtained and poor children suffer from emotional and behavioural problems more frequently than their richer peers.

 Research Studies on Child Poverty in London

 In London, the 4 in 10: The End Children Poverty London Project is a two year London based project coordinated by End Child Poverty. Using case studies to determine the real impact that poverty has on the lives of children and their families, the projects two aims are to raise awareness of the extent of child poverty in London and to identify projects and schemes that have been shown to have a positive impact on the levels of child poverty in London. The project looks at child development, education and well-being, parental support, housing and minority ethnic group.

 World Poverty and Children’s Development

 According to a study by the UNICEF in 2005, countries with the largest proportion of children in poverty are Mexico(27.7 percent) and the US (21.9 percent). In the EU, Italy has the highest proportion of child poverty, with 16.6 percent, followed by Ireland (15.7 percent), Portugal (15.6 percent) and Britain (15.4 percent).

 These countries are followed by Canada, Australia and Japan, each with more than 14 percent of children growing up in poverty.

 Research into the effects of poverty on child development helps go toward the formulation, implementation and improvement on anti-poverty strategies focused on families with children.


  •  The Effects of Poverty on Children
  • World Socialist Web site
  • Canadian Press, January 2009
  • Bee, Helen L. The Developing Child. 7th ed. New York: HarperCollinsCollege Publishers, 1995.
  • Gemelli, Ralph J. Normal Child and Adolescent Development. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, 1996.
  • Kagan, Jerome. The Nature of the Child. New York: Basic Books, 1994.

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