In trying to understand the effects of poverty on children we cannot simply look at the current situation but need to take into account the negative spiral that poverty creates. Poor children are most likely to grow into poor adults and poor parents and repeat the cycle of inter-generational poverty. Besides the obvious fact that poor children simply have access to fewer material goods they are also more likely to be in poor health. School readiness assessments indicate that poor children generally start school less ready than their more affluent peers. They achieve poor academic results and have a high likelihood of repeating a grade and dropping out of school at a young age. Girls particularly are at risk of having teen pregnancies and eventually heading up single parent families.
An article by The Telegraph dated 21 May 2012 indicates that more than half of South Africa’s 18 million children live in poverty. Parents living in poverty often feel dis-empowered and overwhelmed by the demands of parenting, yet there is a lot they can do themselves to combat these negative effects. In fact, research suggests that a positive parent-child relationship has the biggest impact on reversing the effects of poverty on children. Poor children need parents who are responsive and attentive. Parents who are positive role models and often engage their children in play. Simply talking to children is absolutely vital – we know that the more words children hear from loving caring adults from birth to age 5 the higher their academic success later. Parents should play through problem scenarios with their children to help them develop problem solving skills. Adequate supervision, predictable daily routines, consistent discipline, a democratic parenting style and parent involvement in a child’s academic career all contribute in very real ways to eradicating inter-generational poverty.
We all have some responsibility in trying to combat the effects of poverty on children as they are are they future generation and workforce in this country and intervention during early childhood has proved to have the biggest impact. Become involved with an Early Childhood Centre in an impoverished area near you (sadly there is no lack of impoverished communities in this country!) or simply share this information with as many people as you can. Let’s get the word out there that poverty can be beaten!