top of page

Developmental Psychology: How Poverty Affects Child Development (The Psychology World Podcast)

Today's episode of The Psychology World Podcast is on Development Psychology and how poverty impacts child development. Focusing on the negative effects poverty can have on cognitive psychology and biological psychology.

Below are the show notes taken from my Development Psychology book:

Poverty is the state of having no or little means to fulfil basic needs and as a result of that, a number of outcomes can arise that inhibit development.

Brooks and Dunn (1997) summarised that poverty has a number of key outcomes:

· Physical health as poverty leads to stunted growth, malnourish and low birth weight.

· Lower cognitive ability

· Poorer school achievement

· Emotional as well as behavioural outcomes such as showing more aggression or fighting behaviour while feeling depressed or anxious on the inside.

The researchers suggested a number of pathways as well. These pathways are other factors that affect development in addition to the family income.

· Availability of nutrition

· The physical condition of the home

· Amount of time parents spent with children

· Parenting style

· Punishment practices

· Parent’s mental health

· Neighbour conditions

· And many more…

Models of poverty:

There are two main models or theories that try to explain and predict the deciding factors in the argument of what factors affect development the most.

· The family stress theory states that the main variables that affect development are family related. Like: parenting styles and communication strategies.

· The investment model states that the most important pathways that affect development are associated with real goods. Such as nutrition, opportunities to learn and enriched environments.

Personally, if you combine the two theories, I believe that you would be spot on and both are very true explanations to the factors that affect poverty the most.

Pollitt (1995)

· Researchers carried out a study on four very poor villages in Central Guatemala for the course of 8 years.

· The participants were made up of over 2000 children and mothers.

· As protein was the main nutrient missing from the villager’s diet. The villagers were given a nutrient supplement.

· Participant from two villages received a high protein supplement whereas the two other control villages got a supplement that contained far less protein.

· Results showed that a significant drop in infant mortality in both sets of villages, but with a 69% decrease in villages taking the high protein supplement compared to only a 24% decrease in the other two villages. Children on the lower protein supplement suffered a slower rate of growth and a slower rate of recovery from infection. They also learned to crawl and walk slightly later on average. Because these undernourished children remained small for their age, adults may have treated them as if they were younger than their actual age.

· In conclusion, this shows how poverty can affect psychological development.

Critical thinking:

A positive of this study is that it has high ecological validity as the experiment uses a natural, real-world setting. In turn, this increases the generalizability of the findings, so we apply the results of the experiment to different situations.

However, as a result of this high ecological validity where other factors that could influence cognitive development aren’t controlled. We cannot say with unshakable certainty that protein was the only factor that could have given us these results. As factors could have potentially played a role. Like: illness, genetic factors and other missing nutrients from their diet.


Poverty can have a number of impacts on development.

There are a number of factors that impact development as well as family income.

The two main theories or models in relation to the effects of poverty on development are:

· The family stress theory

· The investment model

Pollitt (1995) demonstrated how important protein is in cognitive development.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed today’s episode of The Psychology World Podcast and if you want to learn more about more social psychology, cognitive psychology and biological psychology can impact child development. Then please check out my book Developmental Psychology for more information.

Please consider signing up for my newsletter to receive your FREE book as well as more psychology news.

Have a great day everyone!

6 views0 comments


bottom of page