Living in poverty might make you think of a child who doesn't get enough nutritious food to eat, who doesn't have warm winter clothes or toys. All of that may be true for poor kids and will have an effect on their lives, but the one thing that isn't often talked about is the way poverty affects a child's developing brain. It does. Poverty leads to stress in the family and that stress can cause permanent changes in brain development.
Chaya Kulkarni says that parents living in poverty may have to spend more time away from the kids, working or trying to find work. They may have mental health challenges due to their circumstances - depression or anxiety for example. These stressors may make the parent less available to the child, and when kids are young, brain development relies on relationships, particularly the primary relationship. As she says in the interview, a healthy relationship is as important as healthy food. If a child isn't getting the support he needs, not only will his brain not develop as well as possible, brain cells may even be killed by surges of the stress hormone cortosol.
We've put together a full slate of interviews and articles about how poverty affects children as we lead up to Why Poverty? That's TVO's campaign to explore poverty locally and globally along with 70 broadcasters around the world.
How might we help mitigate the effects of poverty on children?
Here's the podcast.