Fluctuations in socioeconomic status often play a critical role in child development and their overall wellness. Fundamentally, children born into families that are socioeconomically disadvantaged often suffer worse well-being and other lifelong implications in societies across the globe (Berger, 2019). From birth, children living under the circumstances that promote socioeconomic inequalities tend to suffer poor health than their peers who are relatively more advantaged. The pathways through which socioeconomic disparities influence a child’s health are interrelated and complex, but generally driven by differences in the distribution of resources which determine the psychosocial, material, and economic conditions in which childhood development occurs (Berger, 2019). In essence, socioeconomic inequalities have a significant impact on the children’s cognitive and social-emotional behavior, as well as health outcomes.
Fluctuations in income are most likely to affect children’s level of educational attainment. Children from low-income families often perform poorly in school. A study by Raffington et al. (2018) established that increased family income, especially in preschool years or childhood influences better cognitive outcomes in later years, especially among children from households that were initially poor. Moreover, short-term income reductions between infancy and childhood are likely to contribute to worse subsequent cognitive outcomes (Berger, 2019). Therefore, households that transition from employment income to welfare often result in lower reading abilities among children. The occurrence of parental job loss between birth and the age of nine also contributes to lower cognitive skills (Raffington et al., 2018). Overall, socioeconomic inequalities negatively affect the child’s educational outcomes and engagement in school.
Family income has a direct impact on child behavior and their social engagement. A study by Hosokawa and Katsura (2018) established that the majority of children from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds usually display antisocial behavior. Fundamentally, increases in income levels are linked to fewer cases of subsequent behavioral issues among children. Additionally, the transition from employment to welfare dependence in childhood influences worse behavioral outcomes (Hosokawa & Katsura, 2018). Moreover, children raised within low-income families have a higher risk of developing poor social-emotional skills (Bobbitt & Gershoff, 2016). Such children often exhibit difficulties in focusing, low social competency, maladaptive behavior, and psychiatric disturbance symptoms. Essentially, children from low socioeconomic backgrounds possess a higher risk of experiencing issues with their social-emotional development, leading to poor quality of life. Research shows that one out of five children in the United States who hail from poor socioeconomic backgrounds tend to experience severe problems concerning their social-emotional development (Bobbitt & Gershoff, 2016). Furthermore, children living in marginalized areas are least likely to participate in leisure, social, and related celebratory activities (Berger, 2019). These children are also often unable to cope with the latest trends in grooming and fashion, which negatively affects their self-esteem and makes them feel they are stigmatized.
There are several health and wellness issues that children from disadvantaged backgrounds face. In essence, social determinants lay a significant role in the health, nutritional status, and survival of children, especially those who are inherently vulnerable and rely on others to safeguard their health. A study by Heaton et al. (2016) identified glaring differences in child nutritional status and mortality rates, which are linked to socioeconomic factors. The same study established that reducing socioeconomic inequalities is crucial to improving child health. Fundamentally, children born in disadvantaged backgrounds are at a high risk of malnutrition and death (Berger, 2019). Additionally, socioeconomic status influences the health of a child through access and utilization of healthcare amenities. Moreover, there is an inverse relationship between child death and the provision of essential medical services such as prenatal and antenatal care (Heaton et al., 2016). Overall, there is a significant relationship between child mortality levels and the income quintile, where children within the lowest income brackets are severely affected. Furthermore, other health conditions such as mental illness and obesity are also more prevalent in marginalized areas, with children being the most affected.
All in all, the family’s socioeconomic status plays an instrumental role in affecting the children’s cognitive and social-emotional behavior, as well as health outcomes. Households with low socioeconomic status are more prone to facing social problems that negatively affect child development. Children require good social-emotional skills to help them feel confident and competent in fostering relationships, growing friendship, and solving problems. Essentially, children who can nurture positive relationships with others tend to be more motivated to learn. Such children may also find it easier to embrace the learning process and realize positive educational outcomes. Moreover, social inequalities are an obstacle to equal healthcare opportunities, leading to increased cases of health problems among children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Therefore, a holistic understanding of the health and wellness issues, which children from poor households face, is required to help improve the situation. Moreover, organizations involved in child welfare should take a proactive approach to ensure that children with low socioeconomic status can also access the opportunities that their counterparts from affluent families have.
Berger, K. S. (2019). Invitation to the life span. Worth Publishers, Macmillan Learning.
Bobbitt, K. C., & Gershoff, E. T. (2016). Chaotic experiences and low-income children’s social- emotional development. Children and Youth Services Review, 70, 19–29. Web.
Heaton, T. B., Crookston, B., Pierce, H., & Amoateng, A. Y. (2016). Social inequality and children’s health in Africa: A cross sectional study. International Journal for Equity in Health, 15(1). Web.
Hosokawa, R., & Katsura, T. (2018). Effect of socioeconomic status on behavioural problems from preschool to early elementary school – A Japanese longitudinal study. PloS One, 13(5). Web.
Raffington, L., Prindle, J. J., & Shing, Y. L. (2018). Income gains predict cognitive functioning longitudinally throughout later childhood in poor children. Developmental Psychology, 54, 1232.