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Child Poverty Article by David Wood


David Wood’s article “Effect of child and family poverty on child health in the United States” is a 2003 publication in the Pediatrics journal, volume 112 from pages 707 to 711. In this article, Wood (2003) examines the prevalence of child poverty in the U.S., the causes and effects of high child poverty on child development, and the role that pediatrics can play to reduce child poverty and its effects.

Article Analysis and Discussion

The author of this article shows that child poverty in the United States is high not to mention that the U.S. is leading in child poverty (22%) among developed countries. Worse still is that extreme poverty is most prevalent among children aged below 6 years. Child poverty in the U.S. also varies according to nationality as well as state to state with some states like New Hampshire having a child poverty rate of 30 percent. Child and family poverty at present is considered to be severer than in the 1960s since the cost of living has increased tremendously in addition to upcoming essentials such as child care.

Wood (2003) states that an increase in child poverty in the U.S. is attributed to a drop in the value of earnings that persons who have a low education status get. Despite the existence of income-transfer programs such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) among others, the real value of such assistance has also decreased. A rise in single-parent families whose heads are females has also led to a rise in child poverty. Children living in families where parents have a low education level (not more than 12 years) have the greatest poverty levels. The highest proportion of government support helps the elderly with only a small proportion going to poor families.

Even in cases where a female family head is working, poverty is still high compared to both-parent families not to mention that child poverty is exacerbated by parents having mental disorders, spousal abuse, or being in substance abuse.

Child poverty impacts heavily on the health, cognitive development, and educational attainment of the child. Poor children experience higher rates of developmental delay and learning disabilities compared to children who are not poor. Wood (2007) also indicates that grade retention and rate of school dropout are higher among poor children. Cases of misconduct in school including expulsion are also more prevalent among poor children as compared to children who are not poor.

The IQ score of poor children tends to be lower by up to 13 points compared to children who are not poor. Poor health among poor children is indicated by “higher rates of hospital admissions, disability days and death rates” (Wood, 2003, p. 709). Lead exposure among poor children is very high due to poor housing conditions. Poor mothers often have infants with low birth weight regardless of race with children born out of wedlock being more common among poor adolescents.

Occupational therapy (OT) practice aims at making sure that an individual becomes more independent and his/her functionality is improved. An understanding of the state of child poverty in the U.S., the causes of child poverty and, the adverse effects experienced by poor children forms a basis for empowering child development and overall health. Occupational therapists can come in to help poor children who are experiencing developmental and educational difficulties to be fully empowered and regain normal development and educational attainment.

The knowledge that environmental factors such as poor neighborhoods that are full of violence and crime and poor housing can exacerbate the health and cognitive development of poor children forms a wake-up call for occupational therapists to advocate for improvements in such environments. Furthermore, empowering parents of poor children academically, health-wise as well as economically is a great leap towards reducing child poverty and its harmful effects.


Wood, D. (2003). Effect of child and family poverty on child health in the United States. Pediatrics, 112: 707-711.