The Impact of Low Socioeconomic Status On Children’s Health

Genetics and the environment play a critical role in a child’s development and health. A child’s socioeconomic status, or SES, also impacts various areas of early development. Socioeconomic status refers to your financial and social place in society. For children, SES is determined by their parents, since they are financially responsible for the child and providing for early development. Many areas of a child’s development are heavily influenced by SES. A few of these areas are discussed below.

Cognitive Abilities & Language

Your ability to think and understand concepts, topics and processes is referred to as cognition. The ability to understand complex issues is derived from the exposure to simpler ideas and concepts at an early age. Children are often exposed to such ideas and concepts by enrolling in an early childhood development program. Such programs are often private and must be funded by the parents. This often leaves children in low SES families without a chance to enter the program.

Children learn to speak from their parents. Those who have a lower socioeconomic status may not be well educated, and will not know how to properly use words. This misuse of language will be picked up by their kids. When a child speaks improperly, they also may have difficulty with critical thinking. In addition, many parents in low SES families are busy working long hours and have less time to spend conversing with their children. This can affect a child’s vocabulary and communication skills.

Eating Habits

A child’s early development is affected by their eating habits. It is essential for children to maintain a healthy diet to maintain good health and a sharp mind. Children in low SES families usually don’t have access to healthy food. Often, the parents work late or work several jobs and can’t be home to ensure their child is eating healthy. Additionally, healthy food can be expensive. Families with limited funds may be forced to buy less healthy foods just to get by.

This can lead to childhood obesity, which brings on several different health problems at an early age. On the flip side, some children might be malnourished because their access to food is severely restricted. Children who don’t get a healthy meal or get no food at all have a hard time concentrating because they will be thinking about food. The brain needs plenty of fuel in the form of healthy food to work optimally.


Children from low-income families tend to have more emotional and behavioral issues. These children see how much stress the parents are experiencing because they have to struggle to support the family by providing the basics, such as food, shelter, and clothing. This constant struggle affects how parents interact with their children and will result in the child being stressed also. Some signs to watch for in these children include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Acting Out
  • Inappropriate Behavior

Family Structure

Roughly 45 percent of the American population belongs to low-income families. Only one-half of low-income children live with married parents. Seventy percent of single-parent households are considered low-income. Children in these households attend daycare an average of 35 hours per week so the parents can work full-time. A low SES can lead to:

  • Domestic crowding
  • Family instability
  • Child abuse and neglect

Children with a low SES background have difficulty in developing to their fullest potential. They often experience stress on a level that no child should have to experience. Early development is important for children and when their early development is stunted due to a low SES, these kids tend to struggle throughout their life. Often, it is a vicious cycle that’s hard to break. Because they are held back from fully developing, they often repeat the family life in which they grew up.