Teens and Poverty

Poverty and Teenage Relationships

According to poverty expert Ruby Payne, Ph.D.:
– In the United States, the poverty rate for children under 18 is 16.3%
– There were 6.8 million poor families in 2001
– The US child poverty rate is often 2 or 3 times higher than that of most other industrialized Western nations
– Poor children are much more likely to suffer developmental delays in learning
– Poor children are more likely to drop out of school
– Poor children are more likely to give birth during the teen years
– Poor children are more likely to be in single-parent families
– Poor children are 7 times more likely to be the victims of child abuse or neglect

Poverty is not about race: it’s about class and survival. It’s always about survival.

A Future Story
Payne says teen girls who grow up in poverty often lack a future story.

Liliana: I don’t really want to make too many plans that I’m going to do this and that, because I don’t really know what is going to happen.

For students and adults from poverty, the primary motivation for their success will be in their relationships.

Research shows that in poverty, where work is not consistent, your identity is dependent on your gender. Asha and Liliana define themselves first as mothers. This is how they see themselves.

Q & A with Dr. Ruby Payne:
Asha is an example of someone who comes from generational poverty – what does that mean when it comes to building relationships?
– 1) In poverty, people are possessions. It’s people that keep you alive – not work, not achievement.
– 2) In poverty, you often don’t have the language skills and other tools to resolve conflict.
– 3) In poverty, you don’t have the ability to plan. Long-range planning allows you to have impulse control. X-Man has little to no impulse control.

XMan: It was like alcohol, weed, and fighting, and possibly shooting, and I didn’t want her in that environment. As a matter of fact, I shouldn’t have went. I was just young and dumb.

– 4) When you don’t have resources for activities, sex becomes an activity.
– 5) There are no boundaries in generational poverty. Everybody knows about sex because there are no secrets. There are no boundaries about space.

Why does Asha stay with X-Man?
– 1) You expect men to cheat on you in generational poverty. That’s just what he does. You don’t know a man who doesn’t do it. When he comes back, you punish him a little bit. You have a power exchange at an emotional level. X-Man did something wrong, he’s remorseful. Asha is in the power seat. He’s going to continue to be accommodating until he gets forgiveness. He always gives her some sort of a payoff. If she accepts the payoff, she forgives him.
– In middle-class situations, you are disciplined, you believe in change. Poverty believes in fate and luck. The bottom line, I’m destined, I’m fated. You engage in this behavior.
X-Man: We wasn’t thinking about a baby, but we knew that it would eventually happen because we wasn’t using no protection at all.

Real men don’t use condoms in poverty. Real men are invincible. Real men get women pregnant. X-Man needs some children to prove he’s a real man. In poverty, it’s about numbers. People are a resource. People keep you safe. He’s also trying to fit in with his friends.

How do you create a future story?
1) Get in a one-on-one relationship with a middle-class person
2) Get education
3) Get employment

It’s not about intelligence; it’s about the opportunity to learn. There is a massive amount of talent in poverty that doesn’t get developed.

Dr. Ruby Payne, an expert on poverty, defines poverty as the extent to which an individual does without resources. Poverty is more about resources than about money.
Resources are:
Financial: having the money to buy goods and services
Emotional: being able to choose and control emotional responses to negative situations
Mental: having the mental abilities and acquired skills to deal with daily life (reading, writing, and computing)
Spiritual: believing in divine purpose and guidance
Physical: health and mobility
Support systems: friends, family, resources available in times of need
Relationships/Role Models: access to adults who are appropriate, nurturing and who do not engage in self-destructive behavior
Knowledge of hidden rules: knowing the unspoken cues and habits of a group

Keys Points to Understanding Poverty
-Poverty is relative
-Poverty occurs in all races and countries
-Generational and situational poverty are different
-Students bring to school the hidden rules of class in which they are raised
-Schools operate from middle-class norms and rules

Hidden Rules of Poverty
– The noise level is high (TV is always on and everyone may talk at once – loudly)
– The most important information is non-verbal
– One of the main values of an individual to the group is to entertain
– You may need to use your body for survival. After all, that is all that is truly yours….values don’t put food on the table.
– Poverty promotes strong beliefs in fate; therefore, discipline is NOT ABOUT CHANGE it is about “penance and forgiveness.” Do not expect change due to discipline.
– Middle class values self-sufficiency but poverty portends that you will never get ahead so it is important to share and immediately spend money.
– People are all you have when you are poor. People are possessions and people can rely on each other.
– Gangs are a type of support system. They provide virtually all of the resources needed for survival.
– Men in poverty expect to die young; therefore, dangerous actions and rules are easier to rationalize.
– Middle class uses space to get away from conflict (land, neighborhoods), but in poverty, separation is not an option; therefore, there’s a need to defend your turf physically.
– Emotional resources come from observing how role models deal with adverse situations and social interactions.
– Poverty perpetuates itself by supplying role models who only know its rules of behavior.

The Driving Forces for Decision Making

– Generational poverty: survival, relationships, entertainment
– Middle class: work and achievement
– Wealth: social, financial, and political connections
Possessions
– Generational poverty: people/relationships valued over achievement
– Middle class: things–if material security is threatened, a relationship is broken
– Wealth: legacies–one of kind a objects and pedigrees
Conflict
– Generational poverty: physical fighting, no negotiation skills
– Middle class: verbal fighting, physical fight is distasteful
– Wealth: social inclusion/exclusion; lawyers
Food
– Generational poverty: valued for its quantity
– Middle class: valued for its quality
– Wealth: valued for its presentation

To move from poverty to middle class to wealth, an individual must give up relationships for achievement (at least for some period of time).

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