Adolescence is defined as the transitional period of life between the onset of sexual maturity that marks the end of childhood and full adulthood(Gall, S., Beins, B., Feldman, A. J, 1996). This stage usually happens at around age 12 to age 21 when there is physiological, psychological, and social turbulence(Gall, 1996). Physiologically, adolescence is normally a time of significant inner turmoil and stress. This stress can bring about psychological and social problems. Poverty is described as people who are living in economic hardship. According to evidence, low socioeconomic status is associated with declining scores on motor, emotional, cognitive, and language development of adolescents((Lipina, 2017)).
Researchers also proposed the following components of poverty: a material condition in which needs, pattern of deprivations, and limited access to resources as main components; an economic circumstance, where standard of living, inequality, and economic class are the main components; and as a social circumstance, in which lack of basic security, lack of entitlement, exclusion, dependency, and social class are the most referred components(Lipina, 2017). Challenges associated with these life changes may be exacerbated when teen are directed into situations in which their families are unable to provide the experiences, resources, and services that are essential for them to thrive and to grow(Dashiff, DiMicco, Myers, Sheppard, 2009).
Adolescents are emotionally affected because of the stress of having to deal with scraping by, which could lead to feelings of aggression, isolation, deviance, feelings of deprivation, embarrassment, being picked on/bullied, frustration, impatience, and less empathy towards others. Adolescents who grow up in poverty stricken communities are responsible for taking on adult responsibilities at a young age(Dashiff et al., 2009). One major thing that I have observed with my friends regarding poverty is how they cannot afford to pay for a meal with their friends or attend social events that cost money and I can see that it makes them upset. They struggle to find opportunity due to their financial class, which is a depressing matter. Money is a huge barrier and can hinder you from many things in life and make you depressed.
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It is hard to live a happy, healthy life when you can’t afford to live that way. Emotional struggles such as depression, anxiety, and low self esteem are severely affected by poverty and can also have an impact on social development. Statistics show that depression greatly affects those who are low-income(Butler, 2014). Psychologists point to several factors as to why this mental disorder is becoming more prevalent among adolescents. The first factor they point out is the lack of attention from the mother and father(Butler, 2014). This factor proves true because parents are taking on job after job in order to keep a roof over their family’s head; this in turn becomes the primary focus. This focus ultimately makes parents unable to provide the adequate amount of nurturing, leaving the adolescent to develop depression symptoms that can lead to other development issues, such as social struggles. Another factor that plays a big role in adolescent depression is chaotic home life.
Studies show that low-income families often have higher stress levels(Butler, 2014). Studies show that poor parent–child relationships predicted higher levels of adolescent depressive symptoms(Dashiff, et al., 2009). A study showed that an adolescent girls’ depression and adolescent boys’ drinking were associated with their awareness of their parents’ financial problems(Dashiff, et al., 2009). Their awareness was also linked with a sense of helplessness, as well as shame and inferiority(Dashiff, et al.,2009). Research also states that adolescents from low socioeconomic environments are at a higher risk for teen suicide(Dashiff et al., 2009). These adolescents who live in poverty are more likely to be exposed to violence, either as victims, witnesses, or perpetrators, than those living in higher income environments(Dashiff et al., 2009). Research shows that this exposure to violence in high poverty neighborhoods is linked with increased depression symptoms, anxiety, and externalizing problem behaviors(Dashiff et al., 2009).
Typically, adolescents who grow up living in poverty struggle to find a comfortable place in school or other social areas where most people are of higher economic classes. They are placed in a form of segregation and isolation from their peers, which creates turbulence in their mental health (Butler, 2014) Most families are middle class, therefore financially able to provide the resources necessary for standard healthy development of their child or adolescent. Teens residing in poverty tend to be socialized by older peers for risk engagement activities, resulting in increasing levels of arrest and gun violence(Dashiff et al., 2009). Results from a study show that community disadvantage increased the risk of non-normative life events (e.g., school dropout, teenage pregnancy) during adolescence(Murry, V.M., Berkel, C., Gaylord-Harden, N.K., Copeland-Linder, N., Nation, M, 2011). Social-class discrimination is evident, but little is known about its impact on the poor or its role in the link between socioeconomic status and health(Fuller-Rowell, T. E., Evans, G. W., & Ong, A. D, 2012). One important health outcome in research on the impact of poverty and stress is allostatic load. It is defined as the wear and tear on the body resulting from chronic over-activation of physiological systems that maintain the body’s equilibrium in the face of physical or social demands(Fuller-Rowell, 2012). It combines indicators of health across multiple areas: cardiovascular, endocrine, and metabolic(Fuller-Rowell, 2012).
In closing, poverty is associated with many adverse mental health outcomes for adolescents directly through effects on adolescents or indirectly through its effect on parenting behaviors. Poverty seems to stimulate negative parenting practices that may be a result of parental stress and that contribute to parent–adolescent conflict. Increased parent– adolescent conflict often leads to an increase in adolescent risk-taking behaviors and mood disturbance. Early sexual debut, substance use, and criminal activity can increase the risks for repeating a cycle of social disadvantage. Interventions that target adolescent mental health in poverty circumstances must acknowledge the adolescent’s contextual and social realities and address multiple dimensions, including investment in the community and community cohesion.Low SES backgrounds have been linked to values and beliefs that could undermine the development of persistence and determination in the face of challenging circumstances. Lower SES parents tend to discourage self‐directedness in their children, often permitting less autonomy and choice.
My research was focused mainly on the emotional and social effects surrounding the development of an adolescent. These categories are important to me, since emotion and socialization are so vital and evident in our society. Poverty is a huge, growing problem in our society and has yet to be corrected. It not greatly affects the emotional and social wellbeing of adolescents. Living in poverty hinders the adolescent from reaching healthy, complete development in order to properly succeed in life. They reach a sense of hopelessness when the realization of their situation comes to their full understanding, especially when they reach adult age(21+). Taking initiative to strive for a better life allows adults to be successful and allows them to escape the negative attributes of poverty. While my research has been about the negative affects of poverty in adolescents, there are also positive outcomes. As an individual, you have the power to help shape the outcome of your life.
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