Apart from physical problems, people with an impoverished lifestyle in childhood are also likely to suffer significant psychological damage during adulthood. The findings showed that impoverished children had more anti-social conduct such as aggression and bullying and increased feeling of helplessness, than kids from middle-income backgrounds.
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Poor kids also have more chronic physiological stress and more deficits in short-term spatial memory. “What this means is, if you’re born poor, you’re on a trajectory to have more of these kinds of psychological problems,” said lead author Gary Evans, Professor and child psychologist at the Cornell University in New York, US. The reason is stress, researchers said. “With poverty, you’re exposed to lots of stress. Everybody has stress, but low-income families, low-income children, have a lot more of it,” Evans said. “And the parents are also under a lot of stress. So for kids, there is a cumulative risk exposure.”
For the study, Evans tracked 341 participants over a 15-year period, and tested them at ages 9, 13, 17 and 24. The results revealed that the adults who grew up in poverty had a diminished ability to recall the sequences, tend to be more helpless and had the tendency to give up easily as well as had a higher level of chronic physical stress throughout childhood and into adulthood. The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.