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Policy Brief: Childhood Resilience to Poverty

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In Australia, the number of children who mature in settings of poverty or financial disadvantage continues to increase each year. The term, marginalised children, refers to young individuals that, because of socioeconomic settings, find themselves challenged with limited support to achieve their developmental goals (Redmond et al., 2016). Researches of the impacts of poverty have emphasized the potentially devastating influence that this factor can have on the children's development (Dickerson & Popli, 2015; Hair, Hanson, Wolfe, & Pollak, 2015). Still, many children demonstrate resilience that is an ability to overcome adversity, in which they are forced to live. Since the negative development outcomes for children are avoidable, the Policy Brief highlights the recent research findings on building resilience in children exposed to poverty. Specifically, this Policy Brief provides an extended discussion of the importance of the childhood resilience to poverty and implications of research for building specific policy recommendations with the view to enabling children in poverty to withstand stresses better.

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Why Is this Issue Important?

The poverty might impact the children development; therefore, it is an important issue in terms of their well-being. Because of living in poverty, children are more likely to experience a range of different stresses, including poor health, food insecurity, disrupted schooling, family conflicts, or financial hardships (Redmond et al., 2016). It also means acknowledging the nature of the associations between developmental backgrounds such as the home and the impact of factors such as poverty on these associations by disrupting the healthy development of the youngsters. Particularly, the poverty is not a single risk factor but a set of complex processes that produce a socioeconomic context, within which the cognitive, psychological, and physical outcomes appear and become critical by their negative influence on the children's development. In opposition, the childhood resilience to poverty brings positive developmental outcomes (Evans & Kim, 2012). The promotion of resilience not only decreases stress levels but also helps children manage many other demands caused by poverty.

What Does the Research Tell Us?

According to ACOSS (2016), 17.4% of all children are living in poverty in Australia. Furthermore, ACOSS (2016) notes that this figure has increased by 2% over the recent 10 years. It means that the number of children in Australia who mature in poverty continues to increase. Additionally, the organization indicates the prevalence of poverty in Australian children and highlights the inadequacy of the income payments and sums needed for covering basic expenses of low-income families. Subsequently, it is an important prompt that poverty must be considered the national policy priority.

Development Outcomes in Children

Cognitive outcomes, In their study, Hair et al. (2015) have found that brain structures that are critical for learning and education activities (for example, attention, remembering, and planning) are affected by poverty and accompanied setting, including stress, limited encouragement, and food insecurity. These findings go in line with conclusions of Dickerson and Popli (2015) who also assume that growing up in poverty has a disadvantageous impact on the cognitive development of children. Blair and Raver (2016) suggested that such an effect is present because of the persistent economic hardship, which provokes parents to experience sustained stress. As a result, it significantly reduces the effectiveness of the parent-child interaction in terms of cognitive stimulation (Evans & Kim, 2012). Moreover, because of poverty, children receive less cognitive stimulation since the print media, toys, and digital materials are less available to them.

Social, emotional, and behavioral outcomes, Evans and Kim (2012) provide substantial evidence, which proves that financial disadvantages are associated with lower social, emotional, and behavioral outcomes for children. Starting from the early childhood, children strongly depend on the mother's psychological state. As a result, they are affected by her depression, stress, and other negative emotions that are intensified by poverty. Besides, these emotional outcomes of poverty significantly influence the quality of a parent-child relationship. Parents are more overloaded with the work and have less time for communication with their children. As a result, children are experiencing a deficit of the social development. Additionally, there are more aggression and conflicts in low-income families, which directly affect the emotional development of a child by provoking negative outcomes (Evans & Kim, 2012). Because of poor communication in low-income families, children are at risk of developing poorer language skills that impact their capacity to regulate their emotions because of the lack of experience in emotional manifestation and communication skills (Blair & Raver, 2016). Furthermore, parents are less responsible; thus, they provide less attention and support for their children, which also lead to negative developmental outcomes. According to Hair et al. (2015), the childhood poverty may lead to experiencing chronic stress among children that may result in a psychological regulatory system.

Physical health, Because of poverty, children face multiple disadvantages in terms of their health condition (Evans & Kim, 2012). The birth weight of children in low-income families is expected to be low; this parameter is a vital factor in the further physical development. Additionally, their parents are more likely to demonstrate poor health behaviours, including smoking and substance abuse (Chung et al., 2016). Thus, children that are growing up in poverty are expected to experience more difficulties in physical health.

Who Is at Risk?

Redmond et al. (2016) stressed that marginalized children are at particular risk of these undesirable outcomes caused by poverty. The increase in the number of various stresses that are caused by childhood poverty forces children to organize incomes to meet many environmental difficulties. Furthermore, the raised up stress associated with childhood disadvantages also interrupts the development of vigorous self-coping abilities, which are vital for the children's development, particularly for learning how to accomplish these environmental stresses.

Childhood Resilience to Poverty

Based on Evans and Kims (2012) research, one can conclude that children who have better-developed self-regulatory skills show resilience to poverty. Hence, the development of self-regulatory skills is one of the factors that protect children from negative outcomes in the face of financial disadvantages. Since the self-regulatory process relies on the control of attention, inhibitory control, working memory, and planning, its development can help a child develop resilience (Evans & Kim, 2012). To support it, parental support may also be associated with the self-regulatory skills development in children (Blair & Raver, 2016). Thus, it is meaningful that parent support has the potential to influence the development outcomes in children by enhancing such parent mechanisms as child rearing practice and parent-child interactions that encourage the development of competence in children and childhood resilience to poverty. Moreover, it is the way to reinforce family utility efficiently; it has a critical role in promoting the childhood resilience to poverty through empowering parents and encouraging them to develop skills and seek solutions to difficulties. Therefore, a positive parent-child interaction might buffer effects of the childhood poverty on their resilience.

What Are the Implications of the Research?

To address implications of the research, the observation with the special attention to the causes and responses to poverty demonstrates that children who are financially disadvantaged have to deal with numerous physical, psychological, and social settings (Hair et al., 2015; Dickerson & Popli, 2015; Evans & Kim, 2012). While it is not possible to offer all-inclusive intervention for all risk factors caused by poverty, it opens potential opportunity to propose intervention programs to combat poverty outcomes in children by promoting the childhood resilience to poverty. Accordingly, the key practical contribution is that researchers provide much-needed practice whereby the childhood resilience as a protective factor to poverty might be supported through the development of parent-child interactions and educational interventions (Blair & Raver, 2016). Therefore, the development and provision of intervention programs could significantly contribute to improved development outcomes in children by the educational attainment and successful parenting.

Policy Recommendations

The Families and Schools Together (FAST, 2013) program provides after-school activities, in which teachers, children, and parents are engaged in common activities. According to Turley, Gamoran, McCarty, and Fish (2017), it aims at enhancing the family functioning, children's development, and promotion risk resilience in low-income families through the intensification of the parent involvement in education activities and improvement of parent-child interactions. In terms of critics of this program, it is obvious that flextime schedules are crucial for parents, and they may feel limited or have no enough time to participate in such after-school activities. It also may result in overloading the teacher's work schedules. Therefore, implementing this program may be problematic in some aspects. Hence, other types of social interactions should be utilized during after-school activities, for example, by involving other pears.

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Still, educational activities with high parent involvement have a significant positive influence on the children's development (Turley et al., 2017). Additionally, Mullan (2013) advocated that the children's involvement in alternative care activities positively influences developmental outcomes. Besides, a healthy nutrition has a positive effect on schooling, as well as personal and social aptitude among children (Byrne et al., 2017; Redmond et al., 2017). To enable children in poverty to better withstand stresses and encounters, the following recommendations are proposed:

1. The Australian Government should implement a nation-wide program that solicits parent involvement in the educational process, in which parents should be encouraged and requested to be involved in evaluating and building educational policies and related procedures (for example, have access to appropriate educational materials) throughout the children's learning activities to meet their needs in the high-quality education and promote the childhood resilience to poverty.

2. The Australian Government should implement a nationwide after-school program, in which students are required to attend alternative care activities with providing healthy daily nutrition in order to meet their needs in the cognitive, social, emotional, behavioural, and physical development.

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