Poverty can negatively impact child health, child well-being, and child development in the following ways:
Chronic or prolonged stress, such as the stress experienced by those who live in extreme poverty, can negatively impact early brain development, potentially resulting in cognitive impairment and other long-term consequences for children. This effect is sometimes referred to as toxic stress. The effects of stress and other social conditions of poverty also can increase the risk of children developing mental health issues and behavioural problems. For this reason, poverty has been described by some researchers as an adverse childhood experience (ACE)
Children who live in poverty typically have low levels of access to health care services and other social supports which are critical for promoting good health and managing and treating health conditions. Children from low-income families also have less financial resources to draw upon in times of need and crisis
Children living in food insecure households and communities may suffer from inadequate nutrition which can contribute to physical health problems (e.g. diabetes, obesity) as well as mental health issues. During the early years, malnutrition can result in failure to thrive and developmental problems
Poverty is associated with lower levels of academic achievement and educational attainment for children. This is because the experience of poverty poses many challenges for children. For example, children from low-income families may not be able to concentrate because of hunger or may be victimized by bullies
This study demonstrates the causal impact of a poverty reduction intervention on early childhood brain activity. Data from the Baby’s First Years study, a randomized control trial, show that a predictable, monthly unconditional cash transfer given to low-income families may have a causal impact on infant brain activity. In the context of greater economic resources, children’s experiences changed, and their brain activity adapted to those experiences. The resultant brain activity patterns have been shown to be associated with the development of subsequent cognitive skills.