The Impact of Poverty on the Mental Health and Development of Very Young Children
The basic facts are increasingly well-known. Young children (under 6 years of age) have the highest poverty rates of any age group in the United States (Shirk, Bennett, & Aber, 1999) and in most other major Western industrialized democracies (Rainwater & Smeeding, 1995). In addition, poverty experienced in early childhood, especially extreme poverty, is more detrimental to children's future development than poverty experienced later in life (Duncan, Brooks-Gunn, & Klebanov, 1994). And, although it is difficult to tease out the effects of family-level poverty compared to that of neighborhood-level poverty, when researchers do so, it appears that family-level poverty has the stronger influence on children's development, including their mental health (Aber, 1994; Brooks-Gunn, Duncan & Aber, 1997).