The Effects of Poverty on the Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Health of Children and Youth Implications for Prevention

Graduate School of Education, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
American Psychologist (Impact Factor: 6.87). 05/2012; 67(4):272-84. DOI: 10.1037/a0028015
Source: PubMed


This article considers the implications for prevention science of recent advances in research on family poverty and children's mental, emotional, and behavioral health. First, we describe definitions of poverty and the conceptual and empirical challenges to estimating the causal effects of poverty on children's mental, emotional, and behavioral health. Second, we offer a conceptual framework that incorporates selection processes that affect who becomes poor as well as mechanisms through which poverty appears to influence child and youth mental health. Third, we use this conceptual framework to selectively review the growing literatures on the mechanisms through which family poverty influences the mental, emotional, and behavioral health of children. We illustrate how a better understanding of the mechanisms of effect by which poverty impacts children's mental, emotional, and behavioral health is valuable in designing effective preventive interventions for those in poverty. Fourth, we describe strategies to directly reduce poverty and the implications of these strategies for prevention. This article is one of three in a special section (see also Biglan, Flay, Embry, & Sandler, 2012; Muñoz, Beardslee, & Leykin, 2012) representing an elaboration on a theme for prevention science developed by the 2009 report of the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine.

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    • "For example, in a study of 1069 11-year-old twins and their biological mothers and fathers, Bornovalova et al. (2010) demonstrated that parental genetic factors accounted for a large percentage of the variance in disorders in these children. Some variables may produce intergenerational effects (Yoshikawa et al., 2012). For example, low levels of education and adolescent parenthood are associated with low SES, and these may perpetuate poverty, resulting in effects on behavior problems generations later. "
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    • "Poverty and urban crime might affect children through parental stress and neurobiological, cognitive , and socio-emotional processes (Ewart and Suchday 2002; O'Connell, Boat, and Warner 2009). Recognition of these pathways allows the development of frameworks for guiding preventive programs (Yoshikawa, Aber, and Beardslee 2012). "
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