Children in poverty are "...behind the eight ball from the moment of conception. Fewer of the marginalized children will develop to the full measure of their potential or acquire advanced intellectual competencies and academic skills that are clearly ahead of the norm for their age." (Kitano, 2003, p.2)
The work of Brooks-Gunn and Duncan (1997) stated conclusions that the "...negative effects of poverty on IQ and achievement tests are more pronounced for children who experience poverty during the preschool and early school years and, especially, for children who live in extreme poverty or for multiple years. However, the effects of poverty on school attainment (years of schooling completed), while statistically significant, are small. "It is not yet possible to make conclusive statements regarding the size of the effects of poverty on children's long-term cognitive development." (as cited in Kitano, 2003, p.3)
It is stated to be held by some researchers that children "as they reach school age" are increasingly influenced by the environments of school and community that may possibly "equal or outweigh the impact of family conditions" however, since the home environment is inclusive of "learning experiences in the home" and "accounts for 50% of the effect of income on cognitive ability" these findings should be combined in emphasizing the importance of school, community and parental interventions for bringing about an improvement in the academic outcomes of students.
8. Resilience and Competence and Contextual Factors in Positive Outcomes
The work of Sameroff (2005) entitled: "Early Resilience and Its Developmental Consequences" states that researchers on resilience who focus on comprehension of how adversity is overcome by individuals place an emphasis on "the definitional difference between resilience and competence." (p.1) Sameroff states that the study of competence and resilience "are inextricably linked, with resilience focused more sharply on adaptation under extenuating circumstances of deprivation, trauma, disaster or other acute and chronic adversities." (2005, p.1) Sameroff questions whether resilience is resident within the individual and states that children who are competent on higher levels "...have better developmental outcomes under conditions of high stress, but also under lower levels of challenge. However, contextual factors play an equally large role in producing positive outcomes." (2005, p.2) Included are factors such as:
(1) Supportive families;
(2) Accepting peer groups,
(3) Competent schools; and (4) Neighborhood collective efficacy; and even more in the way of financial resources. (Sameroff, 2005, p.2)
According to Sameroff (2005) "Resilience has come to be seen as a multidimensional construct. Because it is usually studied with a specific at-risk population, for example maltreated children, children raised by psychotic parents or children raised in poverty, different processes have been found to lead to positive outcomes. Moreover, when children show resilience in one area of development, it may be at the cost of more problems in other areas." (p.3) the stated example is the study reported by Luthar (1991) which states findings that children "...who showed successful adaptation struggled with emotional problems such as depression."
9. Needs of Future Research
Sameroff states that since the construct of resilience in individuals is "still unidentified...more energy should be devoted to studying social contexts that foster positive outcomes." (2005, p.3) the improvement of the competence of the individual is a critical strategy in situations where social circumstances are inalterable but "...but a greater proportion of competent outcomes would be achieved if efforts were made to change contextual factors rather than individual factors." (Sameroff, 2005, p.3)
Sameroff reports that study has indicated that the more risks are present in the life of the child the worse the outcomes of the child and "...single variables, such as income level and marital status on the family side, and gender, race, efficacy, mental health and achievement on the personal side, taken alone may have statistically significant effects on children's behavior, but their effects are small in comparison with the accumulation of multiple negative influences that characterize high-risk groups." (Sameroff, 2005, p.4) Additionally, Sameroff reports an existing "...overlap in children's outcomes" as being "...substantial for low-income vs. high- income families, families with one or two parents, boys vs. girls, blacks vs. whites, and high-resourceful and low-resourceful youth. But the overlap is far less in comparisons between groups of children reared in conditions of high vs. low levels of multiple risks, where the effects of gender, race, resourcefulness, income and number of parents in the home are accumulated." (Sameroff, 2005, p.4)
10. Resilience Important Precursor of any Successful Intervention
Sameroff concludes by stating that the origin of resilience "...is an important precursor of any successful intervention but that it is however, unfortunate that "...most interventions in single domains have not produced major resistance to problematic outcomes. Prevention and intervention efforts emerging from this realization utilize combinations of efforts to target multiple rather than single sources of resilience. Increasingly, appreciation must be given to the multiple social subsystems that play important roles in producing or reducing social and academic competence." (2005, p.4)
Summary & Conclusion
This study has sought to answer the question of what factors present in the lives of children who grow up in poverty results in their resiliency and in their capacity to experience normal cognitive development and academic achievement despite the element of poverty in their lives. Secondly, this research has examined both the physiological and psychological processes involved in this resilience as demonstrated by some children as well as questioning the relevance of environmental impacts on these children and what factors enable some children to withstand these impacts and to excel despite the negative impacts of poverty.
The precise origin of resilience is yet to be completely understood however, it has been noted in this present study that competence of the individual and resilience of the individual are inextricably linked. Resilience is understood to be a factor that can be developed and nourished in the child in order to positively impact the child's development and thereby support the academic outcomes of the child. Children with more highly developed cognition are those generally that come from a home environment that is a low-risk environment and that is characterized by family love and support. The school and community environment also plays a role in the development of a child's cognition and their outcomes academically however the family's role is stated to comprise 50% of that which is known to support healthy development among children. Initiatives to build resiliency in children are needed and key in assisting children in their development of cognition and increasing the likelihood of positive academic outcomes. While there are both physiological and psychological processes involved that either support or impede the healthy development of cognition among children there are also environmental impacts that must be given due consideration. This study concludes by stating that the literature reviewed in this study indicates that further and much more extensive research is needed in this area of study in order to fully understand the factors associated with healthy cognitive development and academic achievement among children.
Ayoub, Catherine, et al. (2009) Cognitive Skill Performance Among Young Children Living in Poverty: Risk, Change, and the Promotive Effects of Early Head Start. Early Childhood Research Quarterly. 1 Apr 2001.
B.J. Casey, Jay N. Giedd, and Kathleen M. Thomas, "Structural and Functional Brain Development and Its Relation to Cognitive Development," Biological Psychiatry 54, nos. 1-3 (2000).
Brooks-Gunn, J., & Duncan, G.J. (1997). The effects of poverty on children. The Future of Children: Children and Poverty, 7(2), 55-71.
Kitano, M.K. (2003) Gifted Potential and Poverty: A Call for Extraordinary Action. Journal for the Education of the Gifted. Vol. 26, No. 4, 2003, pp. 292-303. Online available at: http://psych.wisc.edu/henriques/papers/Kitano.pdf
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Sameroff, Arnold (2005) Early Resilience and Its Development Consequences. Early Childhood Development. University of Michigan. 9 Dec 2005. Online available at: http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/documents/SameroffANGxp.pdf