Child Poverty

Across North America and around the world, many adolescents face the challenges of violence, child abuse, drug and alcohol use, unsafe sex, poor nutrition, and the sequelae of persistent and pervasive poverty (World Health Organization 1993; Children's Defence Fund 1996). The life chances of many adolescents are squandered, by crime; teenage pregnancy; school failure, underachievement, and dropout (Children's Defence Fund 1996; United States Department of Health and Human Services 1996).  Despite the challenges of living in poverty many poor youth overcome the odds and develop in a healthy fashion (Werner & Smith 1992)


Children living in a two-parent family have a much greater chance of avoiding poverty than children living in a single-parent family.  In all industrialized nations for which 1990s information is available, children in single-parent families are at greater risk of being poor (Rainwater & Smeeding 1995).  Research published by the U.S. Bureau of the Census in 1992 indicates that among families with dependent children, only 8.3 per cent of married couples were living below the poverty line, compared to 47.1 percent of female-headed single parent households.  The poverty rate for single-parent families headed by fathers was 19.6%


National Australian data documents much the same picture.  Figures from Monash University’s Centre for Population and Urban Research show that family break-up, rather than unemployment, is the main cause of the rise in poverty levels in Australia (Birrell & Rapson 1997).  The Australian Institute Of Family Studies in an investigation of 500 divorcees with children five to eight years after the separation found that four in five divorced sole custody mothers were dependent on social security after their marriages ended (Funder et al 1993). 




World Health Organization (1993). The Health of Young People: A Challenge and a Promise. World Health Organization: Geneva. p 99


Children's Defence Fund. 1996. The State of America's Children Yearbook. Washington, D. C: Children's Defence Fund. p 110


U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (1996). Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth. U. S. Department of Health and Human Services: Washington D. C. p 342


Werner E. E., & Smith R. S (1992). Overcoming the Odds: High Risk Children from Birth to Adulthood. Cornell University Press: Ithaca New York. p 280


Rainwater L.., & Smeeding T. M (1995). Doing Poorly: The Real Income of American Children in a Comparative Perspective. Working Paper No. 127, Luxembourg Income Study, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, Syracuse New York.

U.S. Bureau of the Census (1992).  Poverty in the United States: 1991. Current Population Reports, Series P-60, No. 181. U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington D. C. p 6

Robert Birrell & Virginia Rapson (18 October 1997). More Single Parents Equals More Poverty.  News Weekly. p 8  

Funder et al (1993). Settling Down: Pathways of Parents After Divorce. Australian Institute of Family Studies: Melbourne.


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