In the Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls narrates how poverty and her parents way of living made the whole family live in unfavorable conditions. The author remembers how they moved like nomads from town to town running away from problems caused by her parents. We lived in dusty little mining towns in Nevada, Arizona, and California. The towns had minimal activities, were desolate, and isolated, a life that Jeannettes mom and dad enjoyed (Walls 19).
Jeanettes life composed of good and bad experiences; however, the bad dominated the good. One can imagine how Jeannette felt when they had to move from town to town all due to the illegal activities such as gambling that her father was engaging in. Apparently, Jeannette is not the only child going through this journey of neglect and poverty. A significant number of Americas children are experiencing extreme poverty, and millions of the children are victims of child neglect. According to the Census Bureau, twenty-two percent of children under the age of eighteen, and twenty-four percent under the age of six were living in poverty. Additionally, forty percent of the children were living in extreme poverty (Shaughnessy 4). Various socio-cultural norms influence the care that children receive as to what constitutes proper, adequate or inadequate care, broader social resources such as the availability of critical services, and household and community resources such as time and money (Marcus 54).
Researchers and policymakers have recognized that children living in families with minimal resources are at a higher risk of neglect than those from wealthy families. Various indicators of economic hardship are the primary causes of child neglect, and they include unemployment, single-parent family structure, welfare receipt, utility shut-offs, food insecurity, and self-reported material economic stress (Cancian, Shook Slack, and Yang 4). Moreover, Cancian et al. found that mothers who are eligible to receive all childcare support provided for their children were less likely to have a child subject to maltreatment than were mothers who received partial child support (14).
According to Schumaker, child neglect is one of the primary reasons why children are referred to child welfare agencies in the United States. Findings from the United States fourth National Incidence Study (NIS-4) illustrated that out of the one million two hundred and fifty-six thousand children maltreated during the study period; sixty-one percent were victims of neglect (4). The author found out that neglect due to poverty negatively affects childrens early competence across critical developmental dimensions. Additionally, the neglected children suffer from various cognitive and academic deficits, limited peer acceptance, and social withdrawal (5). Although neglect differs based on the age and the stage of the development of the child, Schumaker posits that neglected infants and children of a young age are vulnerable to poor developmental outcomes. The 1977 Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children assessed mothers in their third trimester of pregnancy and their children for more than three decades. The eighteen-month assessment of children whose mothers were psychologically unavailable indicated increased rates of anxiousness and insecurity among the children. Observation of the maltreated children in a forty-two-month evaluation in a pre-school setting showed the children as distractible, impulsive, and inflexible. The children were highly dependent on teachers for help and nurturance. They also avoided their mothers significantly (106).
It is evident that poverty significantly results in child neglect. The neglect that children experience results in adverse cognitive and developmental effects. The problem of child neglect is indeed a considerable issue in the United States affecting millions of children. Irresponsible parents who are psychologically unavailable and engage in various illegal activities propagate the problem of child neglect. Jeannette provides an excellent example of how her parents neglected her access to different life opportunities due to the irresponsible livelihood adopted by the parents. The effects of child neglect are so dire such that Jeannette even felt ashamed of meeting and speaking with her mother face to face.
Cancian, Maria, Shook Slack, Kristen, and Yang, Mi Youn. The Effect of Family Income on Risk of Child Maltreatment. Madison, WI: Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2010.
Marcus, Rachel. Poverty and Violations of Childrens Right to Protection in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Review of the Evidence. Shaping Policy for Development, 2014. Print.
Shaughnessy, Joan M. An Essay on Poverty and Child Neglect: New Interventions. Vol. 21, no. 1, 2014, pp. 4-15.
Schumaker, Katherine. An Exploration of the Relationship between Poverty and Child Neglect in Canadian Child Welfare. Dissertation, University of Toronto, 2012.
Walls, Jeannette. The Glass Castle. Scribner, 2005.
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