The Effects of Childhood Poverty on Intellectual Development
It is widely known that poverty has many negative effects on the development of children who grow up in impoverished homes. One of the most influential outcomes of a person’s life is their intellectual development, which takes place primarily within the first years of life. Not only can childhood poverty result in less enjoyable childhoods, but adversely affects the cognitive and behavioral development; yet more specifically, children’s intellectual development (Duncan 406). In fact, the economic conditions that a child is subjected to during early and middle childhood is very crucial for forming ability, achievement, and intellectual development (Duncan 408). Poverty has a “deleterious effect” on a child’s development, causing impoverished children to be much more likely to have lower levels of mental growth than those who are non-poor. Studies show that children that live in poverty for longer periods of time have 9.1-points lower IQ scores than children who are never poor (Duncan, Brooks-Gunn, and Klebanov 307) and studies find frequently large affiliations between poverty in early childhood and academic outcomes (Moore 4). Hindered intellectual development of low-income children is a result of several “mediating mechanisms”(see Figure 1), which are affected by poverty, and then in turn affect the ability to develop intellectually (Guo and Harris 432). These mediating mechanisms can be described as the physical environment of the home, mother’s involvement with child, cognitive stimulation at home, child health, and child care quality (Guo and Harris 432). Through the outcomes of mediating mechanisms, which vary with economic status, poverty is able to effect the intellectual development of poor children, consequently minimalizing their opportunities for success.
Guo and Harris 432
Physical Environment and Cognitive Stimulation at Home
First of the mediating mechanisms for Guo and Harris (from the Department of Sociology at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) when analyzing the general framework of children’s intellectual development is the physical environment at home (Guo and Harris 432). This can be influenced greatly by poverty because the condition of the home depends on financial resources. Home environment can include the physical state of the home, the opportunities for learning in the home, as well as the neighborhood in which it is located. Homes of poor children have a much higher likelihood of cracks in the foundation, holes in the roof, exposed wires, and overcrowding. “The physical environment at home reflects the quality and safety of the housing in which the child lives; a safe, high-quality living environment is conducive to learning (Brooks-Gunn, Klebanov, and Liaw 65). The level of cognitive stimulation in the home is another mediating mechanism affecting intellectual development. How poverty effects the ability of a home to be cognitively stimulating is through the ability to purchase resources such as numerous and quality books, newspapers, and magazines, while also being able to take trips to places such as a museum which serve an intellectual purpose (Guo and Harris 433). The home is a place where learning opportunities have the potential to be large, and when the opportunities for stimulation are deterred by poverty, children struggle to develop intellectually. The HOME scale, which measures correlations with family income and poverty, finds that “provisions of learning experiences in the home have been shown to account for up to half of the effect of poverty status on the IQ scores of five-year-olds,” further proving that restricted opportunity within the home can account for negative cognitive outcomes (Brooks-Gunn and Duncan 65). Also correlated with the physical home environment is the neighborhood. Typically, poor families live in poor neighborhoods that include numerous unemployed adults, crime,...
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