Poverty and the Effects on Children

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This week’s assignment topic of thinking of a person whose childhood was affected by a stressor instantly brought to mind a plethora of students who have walked through my classroom door, carrying the weight of poverty on their shoulders. Whether situational, generational, urban, or otherwise, poverty has a real effect on children. Leticia Miranda noted (as cited in Payne, 1996, p. 4) that “poor children are much more likely than non-poor children to suffer developmental delay and damage, to drop out of high school, and to give birth during the teen years.”

Thinking back to my first year of teaching, I can distinctly remember the moment when one of my precious students walked into my first grade classroom, wide-eyed as he nervously chatted with the group of friends that entered together. This typically jovial little boy seemed to have been affected by something, so I greeted him at the door and asked him how he was. He immediately responded with, “I saw a dead guy on the bus this morning!” Not recalling anything in my undergraduate textbooks or training that had prepared me for this moment, I took him aside, knelt down to his level, and asked him to explain. He responded by saying, “well, the guy was laying on the street with a bunch of blood around him and the cops were covering him up with the white sheet.” My heart sank to my toes. I quickly called my student’s older, sixth grade sister down to my room and asked if everything was ok. Quizzically, she stared at me and said, “Miss Bass (my maiden name), everything is good, why?” I probed again and asked if anything strange had happened that morning, to which she gave me the same puzzled look and said, “Miss Bass, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I relayed the story her brother had told me and finally, her eyes lit up. “Oh yea,” she said, “our bus passed a guy that got shot this morning, it kinda freaked [my brother] out a little.” I almost fell over. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This 11-year old had already suppressed a horrific event that had taken place less than an hour prior. As noted by Berger (2012), this child was already utilizing coping methods to lessen the effects of this stressful event.

I wish I could say this story was an outlier, one far different from the rest, but it’s not. Without fail, whenever a field trip is mentioned, I have always had a handful of students urgently rush up to me asking how much money it will cost, looking at me with desperation-flooded eyes after being told, and exclaiming that it will be too much for their parents (although typically parent), to afford. These are the same children who often feel the responsibility to look after their younger siblings and learn survival skills at a young age, for example, how to cook dinner over a hot stove and tuck their brother or sister into bed because no adult will be home for hours.

Children all over the globe are affected by poverty. Colombia is a country I have a special affinity for, as I have sponsored a little Colombian girl for the past six years and would love to one day visit her. Colombia’s children are affected by malnutrition, natural disasters, and violence. According to UNICEF, “forced displacement, landmine accidents, sexual violence and the recruitment of children and adolescents by armed groups are ongoing consequences of the armed conflict in Colombia” (“Humanitarian Action for Children,” 2014). To counteract these constant threats, groups like UNICEF are working to provide communities with clean water, help strengthen government entities that are working to lower the risk for disasters, provide education on environmental dangers, and offer safe places for children (“Humanitarian Action for Children,” 2014).

References:

Berger, K. S. (2012). The developing person through childhood (6th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

Humanitarian Action for Children (2014, January). In Colombia. Retrieved September 27, 2014, from http://www.unicef.org/appeals/colombia.html

Payne, R. K. (1996). A Framework for Understanding Poverty (Fourth ed., p. 4). Highlands, TX: aha! Process, Inc.

Breastfeeding Worldwide

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I chose the topic of breastfeeding this week mainly due to my lack of knowledge surrounding the topic. While I do not have any children of my own yet, I was intrigued to find out why mothers often opt in favor of this option. I also wanted to develop more of an opinion of the route I will take when it comes time for me to have children.

This week’s reading highlighted the importance of breastfeeding. Babies who are breastfed are often healthier, have less of a chance of developing asthma and allergies—although this didn’t prove to be the case in my life; my mom breastfed and I have both (lucky me)—and are less prone to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease (Berger, 2014). Benefits even include a higher IQ, better vision, and later puberty (Berger, 2014).  Not only is there a list of advantages for the baby, there is for the mother as well. In choosing to breastfeed, mothers do not have to prepare formula, save a lot of money by not having to purchase the formula, and have less of a chance for developing breast cancer and osteoporosis (Berger, 2014).

Breastfeeding is done around the world. For example, the Philippines is an international leader in protecting and advocating for mothers who choose to breastfeed and lawmakers have created laws against the aggressive marketing of formula companies, who are attempting to create advertisements that promote that their formulas make babies smarter (The World Health Organization, 2012). According to the WHO (2012), 88% of Filipino babies are breastfed as infants, while only 34% are exclusively breastfed up to five months (The World Health Organization, 2012). While statistics are high for infant breastfeeding, it is interesting to note how low statistics are for babies that are exclusively breastfed up to five months. Based on the UNICEF article I read, mixed feeding is not encouraged for the first six months, as it can lead to diarrhea and other diseases (UNICEF, 2014).

In Peru, 97% of babies are breastfed as infants and 69% are exclusively breastfed from birth to five months (The World Health Organization, 2012). While these numbers are much higher, the Peruvian culture highly encourages breastfeeding and it is often done openly in public (The World Health Organization, 2012).

I was shocked to read the United States’ statistics. About 73% of infants have been breastfed, but only 33% of these babies have been breastfed exclusively under four months and an even lower 14% are exclusively breastfed by the time they reach six months (The World Health Organization, 2012).

It was interesting to read into various country’s statistics and beliefs regarding breastfeeding. It seems as though the reason exclusive breastfeeding through six month statistics are not higher is due to a lack of education and because of culture’s stigmas placed on breastfeeding. This research has impacted my future decision of choosing to breastfeed exclusively through my child’s first six months of life.

References:

Berger, K. S. (2012). The developing person through childhood (6th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

Breastfeeding Around the World (2012, March 5). In In Culture Parent. Retrieved September 13, 2014, from http://www.incultureparent.com/2012/03/breastfeeding-around-the-world/#slide0

Breastfeeding (2014, August 4). In UNICEF in action. Retrieved September 13, 2014, from http://www.unicef.org/nutrition/index_24824.html

Childbirth in My Life and in Colombia

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To be quite honest, I do not have a birth story of my own…and the thought giving birth terrifies me! I am beyond excited to have children of my own, but the actual birthing process sends chills down my spine. For this week’s blog assignment, I chose to call my mom and ask her to fill me in on all the details of my sister’s and my birth.

My sister and I were both born at the same hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan and in both instances, my mom gave birth naturally. I am the firstborn and my mom’s pregnancy was full-term with me and she gave birth in August 1986. My sister, who is 22 months younger, came a week and a half before her projected due date and was born in June 1988. While my mom’s labor lasted 10.5 hours with me, my sister came after 7. My mom said her only complication during either birthing experience occurred when the umbilical chord was wrapped around my chest, forcing doctors to use forceps to extract me. I’m not sure why I wasn’t blessed my mother’s tolerance for pain (and imagine my birthing experiences to be different in this regard), but my mom was not given (and didn’t want) an epidural or any pain killers…she even said no to Tylenol! In both births, my mom experienced healthy pregnancies and gave birth to healthy babies. I weighed in at 6 pounds, 6 ounces, while my sister weighed 6 pounds, 9.5 ounces.

In regards to these particular birthing stories, as well as others, I believe the healthier mothers are before, during, and after pregnancy, the healthier the baby will be. I also believe that the fewer drugs and pain killers administered, the fewer the complications during and after birth.

The country I chose to research was Colombia, as I have sponsored a little girl who lives there for the past eight years. In Colombia, one third of all children are anemic (“Children’s Situation in Colombia,” 2012). Malnutrition affects many groups of people here, thus leading to stillbirths, premature births, and brain damage, among other consequences (“Children’s Situation in Colombia,” 2012). Forty percent of the population lacks health insurance, many of among whom are children (“Children’s Situation in Colombia,” 2012).

Similarities in these 2 birthing experiences exist in that it was my mom’s goal, as well as I’m sure most mothers in Colombia, to have healthy pregnancies and babies. However, my mom was fortunate enough to have full health care insurance, and the resources for adequate, healthy nutrition. It’s heartbreaking to think about countries such as Colombia, where some mothers do not have adequate food, which later results in their babies’ defects and potentially death. I feel blessed to have been born in the situation that I was born in.

References:

Save The Children. (2012, March 5). Children’s situation in Colombia. In Save the Children’s Resource Centre. Retrieved September 6, 2014