Saturday, December 26, 2009

Viscious cycle of poverty

When I used to teach high school kids in under-resourced settings, I used to marvel at the stupids mistakes they made. Not on their papers (who hasn't put a stray apostrophe down?) but in their behavior. It was so easy to catch them in their mischief. Sometimes I thought they were doing it to screw with me but the shock on their faces that they didn't get away with whatever petty trouble was palpable. They really didn't expect to be caught. This dynamic was confirmed when they would tell me stories of how unfair the world is to them. So often, their ire was aimed at some consequence that they could have easily avoided.

Today, I found this summary of research here. The first part of the post discusses that people in poverty get caught in the Tyranny of the Moment because there are so many fires to be put out, they can only think of the "now" in order to survive. This completely squelches any ability that they have to plan for the future.

Dr. Reuven Feuerstein, a holocaust survivor who studied the impact of the holocaust and war on children realized that:

If individuals cannot plan, they cannot predict.
If they cannot predict, then they cannot identify cause and effect.
If they cannot identify cause and effect, they cannot identify consequence.
If they cannot identify consequence, they cannot control impulsivity.
If they cannot control impulsivity, they have an inclination toward criminal behavior.

Can you see how the stress of daily life affects how people in poverty act, feel and view the world? What other things can you see being affected by the stresses of daily survival without stable resources?

One of the challenges that the folks encounter at work is that resourced families who take in children of under-resourced parents feel angry that the parents have let the situation get to such an awful place. This kind of research helps them understand where the guest families are coming from.

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