'Poor children grow into poor adults': Harmful mechanisms or over-deterministic theory?


This paper examines evidence on whether childhood poverty causes adult poverty. Childhood is recognised rightly as a sensitive period for developing cognition, physical vitality and personality. This is in part traceable to specific biological mechanisms. However such science could easily drive over-deterministic views about how childhood affects later life. The paper therefore discusses how damage from childhood poverty can - at least sometimes and partially - be resisted or reversed, both during childhood and in adulthood. As people reached biological maturity alterations to their developmental trajectories rely increasingly on alterations in behavioural relationships. Opportunities remain vital throughout life for sustained socioeconomic attainment. The subject of the paper is important in suggesting comparison of costs of poverty reversals through adult interventions versus poverty avoidance through child interventions.

A preprint version of this paper is also appended.


Yaqub, S. ‘Poor children grow into poor adults’: harmful mechanisms or over-deterministic theory? Journal of International Development (2002) 14 (8) 1081-1093. [DOI: 10.1002/jid.951]

‘Poor children grow into poor adults’: Harmful mechanisms or over-deterministic theory?

Published 1 January 2002