Increasingly, poverty is understood and measured in relative terms; it is not having access to those resources that one sees is taken for granted in one’s own society by others. Growing up in poverty affects every aspect of a child’s life; diet and health suffer, housing is often sub-standard, accident-proneness is high, and illnesses are long-standing. It is also been shown through research that children born to poor parents are likely to have reduced weight and height at birth, are less likely to excel academically and have poorer attendance records in school. Adults who grew up in poverty are more prone to ill-health, unemployment, homelessness, arrests for criminal offences, drug and alcohol abuse and abusive relationships. It is often the case that children in poverty stay in poverty well into their adult life as well and remain in the same quarter of income distribution as their parents. Some of the main reasons why children fail to break this cycle of poverty are missing periods of school, being in care, being known to police, misuse of drugs, teenage parenthood and being out of education either having to work or otherwise.
What is Poverty?
The widely accepted definition of poverty is having an income which is less than 60% of the national average (excluding the wealthiest members of society). The ‘poverty line’ is defined in terms of 69 percent of the median household income, adjusted for household composition. Peter Townsend defines poverty emphasising its relative nature:
Individuals, families and groups in the population can be said to be in poverty when they lack the resources to obtain the types of diet, participate in the activities and have the living conditions and amenities which are customary.