How does the world appear through the eyes of boys growing up in poverty?
Is there a causal link between the chronic stress of poverty and an overdeveloped fight or flight response?
Do disadvantaged youth demonstrate a lack of resilience or motivation?
Why do children living in poverty often struggle academically?
These are some of the issues we encounter in South Africa.
Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed and How Kids Learn Resilience, documents the effects of toxic stress on children living in poverty.
“On a cognitive level, chronically elevated stress can disrupt the development of what are known as executive functions: higher-order mental abilities…”
“When parents behave harshly or unpredictably—especially at moments when their children are upset—the children are less likely over time to develop the ability to manage strong emotions and respond effectively to stressful situations.”
While the body’s fight or flight response to danger serves the purpose of shortening reaction time, environments which chronically stimulate flight or fight are not healthy.
“…toxic stress can make it difficult for children to moderate their responses to disappointments and provocations. A highly sensitive stress-response system constantly on the lookout for threats can produce patterns of behavior that are self-defeating in school: fighting, talking back, acting up,…” – Paul Tough
Jack Shonkoff – Director of Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child
“If you haven’t in your early years been growing up in an environment of responsive relationships that has buffered you from excessive stress activation, then if, in tenth-grade math class, you’re not showing grit and motivation, it may not be a matter of you just not sucking it up enough. …you may not have developed those capacities because of what happened to you early in life.” – Jack Shonkoff
Gender Gap: A Disadvantaged Start Hurts Boys More Than Girls – Claire Cain Miller
“As society becomes more unequal, it seems, it hurts boys more. New research from social scientists offers one explanation: Boys are more sensitive than girls to disadvantage.”
“Any disadvantage, like growing up in poverty, in a bad neighborhood or without a father, takes more of a toll on boys than on their sisters.”
Marianne Bertrand (University of Chicago) with Jessica Pan “…also found that boys fare worse than girls in disadvantaged homes.”
Reclaiming Youth At Risk : Our Hope for the Future – Larry Brendtro, Martin Brokenleg
“…kids growing up in adversity often make choices that seem in flagrant opposition to their self-interest, rendering those goals more distant and difficult to attain.”
“Frustrated in their attempts to achieve, children may seek to prove their competence in distorted ways, such as skill in delinquent activity.”
“But for others, the fear of failure is stronger than the motivation to achieve. Youth who have learned to expect failure seek to escape further shame and embarrassment by working very hard at avoiding work.”
Protective Factors and the Development of Resilience in the Context of Neighborhood Disadvantage – Ella Vanderbilt-Adriance & Daniel S. Shaw.
“…resilience refers to the process through which positive outcomes are achieved in the context of adversity (Luthar, Cicchetti, & Becker, 2000a).”
“Protective factors are defined as characteristics of the child, family, and wider environment that reduce the negative effect of adversity on child outcome (Masten & Reed, 2002).”
“Across risk status, child IQ has consistently been found to predict a range of positive outcomes, including academic achievement, pro-social behavior, and peer social competence (Masten et al.1999), as well as the absence of antisocial behavior (White et al. 1989).”
Thank you for your continued support. Janet & Jim