A huge strain on people
There isn't much that children in poverty can do or say about their situation, because it was exclusively caused by adults. Extreme situations created by poverty put a huge strain on adults and push them to the edge.
Adults often become prone to violence, losing patience if not hope, and gradually lose a sensitivity that is vital for the healthy development of children. All things considered, it’s in fact a miracle that so many kids and parents come out of such experiences with only minor damages. But many also get out of this with scars for life.
Hostages in the poverty trap
A great number of children in poverty still widely suffer from physical and emotional abuse, neglect, and forced labor.
For other kids, their biological development is undermined by the limitations of their environment and education.
Child poverty sends us back to parents’ responsibility toward their descendants. There is nothing indeed that kids can do about their state of poverty - and they shouldn't have to. They have no choice and there's not much they can do about it but endure it or be sent to forced labor.
Child labor & child rights
The problem with children in poverty is so vast that it will need a few pages to cover it. This one will focus on child abuse and neglect resulting from poverty. Child labor (see right column) includes a great range of the dangers that jeopardize children's lives and health from unprotected agricultural work, to scavenging in toxic waste dumps or child "soldiering".
The question of child rights addresses the issue of international and national standards, and their efficiency in improving children's well-being.
THE WORST SOMETIMES AWAITS AT HOME
Poverty equals more child abuse
The problem with abuse and neglect is that they’re passed on from one generation to the next. It's often the only way to raise a child that many adults have ever come to know. There’s also a proven, empirical link between poverty and different forms of child abuses and neglect.
Researchers have time and again insisted to eliminate the “myth of classlessness” concerning maltreatment. If child abuses do happen anywhere, in any social class, they are overwhelmingly more frequent in poorer families. Professionals often talk about the geographic concentration of violence, abuses and poverty.
Why kids don't matter (to some people)
This means that reducing poverty (and thus the number of children in poverty) should be at the core of policies concerned with reducing child maltreatment. Just as for issues of urban poverty, this issue is rarely considered a crisis or a priority. To quote the TV series The Wire: “kids don’t vote”, and their parents are often too preoccupied by their household’s (economic) survival to consider it a priority.
What about the middle- and upper-classes? Because most of poverty is often “limited” to specific areas, it’s as if the poor and the rich of a country lived in two different worlds. To the point that child poverty in a distant country seen on TV seems more real than children getting beat up in a poor neighborhood back home. There is a lack of social pressure, a lack of systematically taking action (from politicians and citizens), and a lack of responsibility of the media in driving people to act rather than just reporting a "spectacle" that gives them great ratings.
In many countries, it's still very common to use physical punishment (other than the good old spanky spanky) as a way to educate a child. As tempting as it might be to slap your little brats again and again - hoping that they get to see the difference from right and wrong in the midst of their momentarily blurred vision - this most likely won’t work as expected. At least not entirely, even if you get to infuse some fear into the kid.
Any punishment that injures the kid leaves him with physical but also psychological traces. Physical injuries often don’t last long, but the results over the years range from mental disorders and aggressiveness to suicide (e.g. kids on whom parents put a pressure without limits). A great deal of these kids also develop drinking and smoking issues when growing up. If being harsh on kids is very dependent on cultures, this might not however be an organic part of cultures per se, but more stem from inherited ways from poorer times. This means that parents have to be part of the solution and need to be re-educated (as tactfully as possible, e.g. because of cultural sensitivities).
Neglect is probably one of the most widespread form of abuse affecting children in poverty and it covers a large range of problems. Parents can for example fail to cater for their children's most basic needs (food, clothing, medicines (when available)), or fail to provide those essential to their kids' development such as love and education.
A child can be emotionally abused by his parents as well, not only ignored but aggressively, excessively and continually told off, embarrassed and such. This can dangerously affect a child’s growth: he can develop antisocial, aggressive if not destructive behaviors (cruelty, pyromania).
Alcohol, drugs and maltreatment
The consumption of drugs and alcohol is another factor that directly fuels child abuse and further entrench children in poverty. Social services worldwide report that the problem concerns more than ¾ of the families they try to help. But as adults are often more resistant to change, so are their behavior and consequences on their children.
Once more, there is a direct link between poverty and drugs & alcohol intake. The pressure people in poverty go through to provide the household with food, electricity, water, books for school, clothes and so on, is quite something to bear psychologically. On top of having to spend their days in exhausting and/or harmful jobs… for those who are employed. Their environment also won’t help, with most poor areas being the most violent ones, their daily lives are nothing short of stressful.
Add to that the rising issue of single parent families, sky-rocketing depression rates among the urban poor due to social exclusion and solitude and you’ll obtain the best cocktail for pushing anyone, just anyone, to the edge. And fall in the trap of drugs, alcohol and violence (even then, many manage to successfully resist the pressure). Then, in a twisted way, being neglected is almost the best thing that can happen to children living in poverty… well… hum... almost.