Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Poverty and social disadvantage
Poverty and social disadvantage are consistently associated with variations in children’s health, cognitive skills and academic achievements, and – though somewhat more modestly – with their social and emotional development . Disruptive behaviours in particular show links with persistent family poverty, with effects that are more marked for boys than for girls, and are stronger in childhood than in adolescence.
Research suggests that these associations reflect elements of both social selection and causal influences. Especially in families of young children, effects are likely to be indirect, operating through processes whereby poverty imposes stresses on parents, and these in turn impact on family relationships and parenting . In more affluent societies, relative deprivation the perception of disadvantage by comparison with others – may also contribute to parental stress.
Neighbourhood and community contexts
Rates of behavioural difficulties (and other markers of child health status) also vary with neighbourhood context ; problem levels may be especially high in chronically disadvantaged innercity areas, and the task of parenting may be more challenging when neighbourhood supports are poor. Once again, many of these effects seem likely to be indirect in early childhood, operating via increased stress on families. But in severely disadvantaged settings even quite young children may be directly exposed to community violence, and later in development neighbourhood influences may be mediated through associations with delinquent peers
For many children, exposure to these and other adversities will covary children in stressed families may also live in poor neighbourhoods, attend poorly resourced schools, and be exposed to deviant peers. Research suggests that risks at the child, parenting, peer and sociocultural levels each add uniquely to the prediction of emotional and behaviour problems.
The total number of risks explains further variance in outcomes, and evidence is beginning to accumulate that differing configurations of risk are associated with specific emotional and behavioural difficulties . Exposure to poverty, for example, may differ in its impact depending on parental characteristics and the quality of family relationships; comprehensive assessments of family and systemic influences require that each of these levels of influence, and the interplay between them, be taken into account
The great majority of us grow up with siblings, and the sibling relationship is the longest-lasting we are likely to experience. How important are siblings as an influence on the way we develop? Clinicians and family therapists have long argued that siblings play an important and influential part in children’s development, but until the last two decades, systematic research on sibling influence