Influence of Poverty and Economic Inequality on Cognitive and Affective Development

Influenceof Poverty and Economic Inequality on Cognitive and AffectiveDevelopment

Cognitiveand affective developments are two of the three fundamental domainsof learning. Cognitive development focuses on thinking and reasoning.Affective development, on the other hand, deals with emotions andfeelings. The third domain of learning is psychomotor that deals withphysical or kinesthetic attributes of learning. Each of these domainswas developed by different psychologists who are credited for theirdiscovery and development. Benjamin Bloom is associated with thecognitive domain while David Krathwohl is associated with theaffective domain. Psychologists and other experts who major in thisfield agree that several factors affect these domains of learning.This paper seeks to explore the influence of poverty on cognitive andaffective development. Poverty and economic inequality are seen tohave a direct influence on an individual’s cognitive and affectivedevelopment.

Cognitiveand Affective Development

Asearlier mentioned, affective development relates to the emergence anddevelopment of the emotional capability to experience, recognize anddisplay a range of emotional feelings. It also includes the abilityto respond adequately to the emotions conveyed by other people.Affective expressions and responses manifest themselves in variousways including facial expressions, vocals, body posture andmovements. Cognitive development, on the other hand, deals with thedevelopment of intelligence, conscious way of thinking and theability to love problems (Newman &amp Newman, 2014). Thisdevelopment starts right from infancy and continues all through anindividual’s life. Some of the cognitive skills that people developas they grow are related to their genetic make-up of an individual.However, many cognitive skills are learned. The implication of thisscenario is that the environmental and social factors that one growsup in will directly affect their cognitive and affective development.


Poverty is a major challenge facing many nations and people acrossthe globe. It is estimated that people more than three billionsurvive on less than $2.50 per day which is considered to be thepoverty cutoff line. True to this, it is a sad reality that thecombined Gross Domestic Product of the most indebted countries in theworld, 41 in number, is less than the combined wealth of the sevenrichest individuals in the world. Relevant data on this matter showsthat one billion children in the world, especially in developingcountries, live in poverty. This figure represents one in every twochildren in the globe, showing just how serious the poverty is(Raver, 2012). In 2003, for example, 10.6 million children diedbefore reaching the age of five years. Although poverty and economicinequality rates are different in all areas of the world, its effectsare far-reaching and interconnected in nature. One of these is thenegative influence on cognitive and affective development as will beexplained in the rest of the paper.

Influenceof Poverty and Economic Inequality on Cognitive and AffectiveDevelopment

Despitebeing a wealthy and developed country, the United States is rankedfirst on matters of childhood poverty among all industrializedcountries in the world. Researchers who focus their studies on therelationship between poverty and cognitive development agree that ayoung person living in poverty is most likely to lack the goods andservices that are necessary for adequate human development andwell-being (Afflerbach, 2015). As a result, children raised inpoverty have poor cognitive and affective development compared tochildren raise in stable economic conditions. According to moststudies conducted on this matter, these differences start to manifestthemselves at the age of two years. At this age, experts argue thatit is possible to spot cognitive and affective differences inchildren raised under different economic conditions.

Thereexists a significant connection between the development of cognitiveand affective skills in children and the economic situations wherethey grow up. This connection also extends to the attainment ofeducation, future career ambitions and earning ability. There isstrong evidence to that proves the fact that poverty has negativeeffects on cognitive and affective development. The intensity of thisinfluence increases with time. This implies that the longer theperiod an individual lives in poverty, the more their affective andcognitive development is affected. Children born with the sameabilities but raised under different economic conditions are bound tohave noticeable differences in the affective and cognitive abilitiesas they grow up.

Asexpected, poverty in a family affects everyone in the household, notjust the children alone. The effects of poverty as experienced byolder members of the family are passed down to the children,ultimately affecting their development (Raver, 2012). For example,mothers going through economic hardships are likely to be victims ofstress and depression. The impact of this is less involvement andlimited cognitive stimulation for the children they raise. Poorhealth and adverse health behaviors such as uncontrolled drinking andsmoking during pregnancy also impact negatively on the development ofthe child in a low-income family.

Asearlier mentioned, the influence of poverty and economic inequalityon a child’s cognitive and affective development manifests itselfright from early childhood. All the factors of the environment inwhich a child grows up affect their learning, self-regulation, andmindset. Young children are vulnerable to effects of their growthenvironment. Therefore, children raised in poverty are most likely tohave developmental problems that occur as a result of their immediatesurroundings. Children living in poverty are more likely to undergodevelopmental and learning setbacks compared to children in wealthyfamilies (Afflerbach, 2015). These setbacks affect theirintelligence, verbal and thinking skills and readiness to join formalschools.

Cognitiveskills are acquired by paying attention and internalized bymemorization. Poverty risk factors such as single parenthood and lowmaternal skills are found to have more far-reaching impacts oncognitive and affective development that poverty itself. Lack ofparental attention means that such children do not acquire cognitiveskills from the adults around them. The negative effects of raisingchildren in poverty tend to affect children even in the other stagesof development (Newman &amp Newman, 2014). For example, a childraised in a low-income family is likely to have reduced academic andsocial performances when they become adolescents since they are notgood at paying attention and memorizing what they learn.

Economicinequality comes to light when exploring the disparities in cognitiveand affective development in children who are raised under differenteconomic conditions. Children in economically empowered families aremore loved, nurtured and given attention as compared to childrenraised in poverty (Raver, 2012). The positive social and emotionalattention they get enables them to acquire better cognitive andaffective skills. Children raised in poverty do not get the best ofthese, and this negatively affects their ability to develop cognitiveand affective skills.


Cognitiveand affective developments enable an individual to live a better liferight from their early childhood. Most of these skills are learned asone grows up. Therefore, the environmental factors in which one growsaffects their development. One of these factors is poverty. Povertyand economic inequality are observed to affect negatively affectiveand cognitive development. Children raised in poor conditions aremost likely to have impaired affective and cognitive development ascompared to their counterparts from economically empowered families.


Afflerbach, P. (Ed.). (2015). Handbook of individual differencesin reading: Reader, text, and context. Routledge.

Newman, B., &amp Newman, P. (2014). Development through life: Apsychosocial approach. Cengage Learning.

Raver, C. C. (2012). Low-income children`s self-regulation in theclassroom: scientific inquiry for social change. AmericanPsychologist.

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