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The Impact of Poverty on Child

Mental Health
By: Erin Goodridge

As of 2014:
46.7 million people in poverty (14.8%)
15.5 million children (under 18) in poverty (21.1%)
Ohio poverty rate above national average (31 out of 50) at 15.8%
Ohio poverty for children at 22.9%
Feeding America, 2016
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2014

Risk Factors
Chronic risk factors children can be exposed to if growing up in poverty include:
child abuse and/or neglect
severe maternal depression
parental substance abuse
harser parenting
family and/or community violence
Lieberman, & Osofsky, 2009

Physical Risk Factors

Substandard housing
Lack of access to resources
Environmental toxins
Lieberman, & Osofsky, 2009

Poverty and Child Mental Health

All factors of poverty can cause stress on adults and children
Correlation between mother's SES and depression with children's stress
More children receiving services in the welfare system have mental health issues
than those who are not
1 in 5 children living in poverty has mental health disorder
Lieberman, & Osofsky, 2009

Quality parenting can help young children overcome the adverse effects of poverty
When parents are unavailable, unresponsive, or use harsh parenting techniques
there are more negative outcomes. This could include higher stress levels, more
mental health issues, learning difficulties, and behavioral issues.
Lieberman, & Osofsky, 2009

Poverty and Violence

Higher rates of violent incidents associated with lower incomes
Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers more likely to witness domestic violence than
older children
According to the American Psychiatric Association, "What smoking is to the rest
of medicine, early childhood violence is to psychiatry."
According to the CDC, the amount of violence affecting young children is so
abundant that it is equivalent to an epidemic.
Lieberman, & Osofsky, 2009

This article was a compilation of findings from many works of research. It presented
the information in a way that summarized the major findings and statistics from the
other research.
Lieberman, & Osofsky, 2009

Major Findings/Conclusions
Early intervention has proven to have long term effects of mothers and children in
Much change is needed within the system to better meet the needs of children
dealing with mental health issues; more mental health services need to be
There needs to be more educational outreach to professionals about the needs of
young children with mental health issues and how to address them.
Lieberman, & Osofsky, 2009

Poverty and Brain Development

Cross-sectional study with data collected in 2010
Two border cities used: El Paso, TX and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico
632 participants-316 from each city
Children in Ciudad Juarez were exposed to poverty and indirect victimization
(collective violence attributed to organized crime)
Children in El Paso were exposed to poverty alone
Leiner, Villanos, Puertas, Peinado, Avila, & Dwivedi, 2015


Leiner, Villanos, Puertas, Peinado, Avila, & Dwivedi, 2015

When comparing results, the children exposed to violence and poverty had higher
levels of emotional and behavioral issues than those exposed to poverty alone.
There were significant findings on every scale of the Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders including anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity,
and oppositional defiance for the Mexico group
Females had a lower score in aggressive behavior than males
Leiner, Villanos, Puertas, Peinado, Avila, & Dwivedi, 2015

Major Findings/Conclusions
Crime victimization has been shown to be a major and public problem that
increases the risks to victims of suffering from trauma-related disorders,
including PTSD, suicide, substance abuse, future criminal behavior, health and
social problems, and future poly-victimization.
It has been shown that trauma as a result of indirect victimization is often not
evaluated to treated properly.
There are less supports for those affected by indirect victimization.
Poverty and violence is a toxic combination for young children.
Leiner, Villanos, Puertas, Peinado, Avila, & Dwivedi, 2015

Additional Research and Resources Needed

More longitudinal studies on the effects of collective violence on young children
Mental health research on children birth to five
Mental health education for professionals and families
Mental health resources and supports for all families and young children
Leiner, Villanos, Puertas, Peinado, Avila, & Dwivedi, 2015

Feeding America. (2016). Hunger and poverty facts and statistics. Retrieved from
Lieberman, A.F., & Osofsky, J.D. (2009). Poverty, trauma, and infant mental health. Zero to Three, 54-58.
Leiner, M., Villanos, M.T., Puertas, H., Peinado, J., Avila, C., & Dwivedi, A. (2015). The emotional and behavioral problems of children exposed to
poverty and/or collective violence in communities at the Mexico-United States border: A comparative study. Salud Mental, 38(2), 95-102.
Tvoparents. (2012, October 19). Poverty and brain development [Video File]. Retrieved from
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (2014). Poverty Map. Retrieved from