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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Young Children's Reasoning about Children and Families Living in Poverty

  • Author(s): Nenadal, Lindsey
  • Advisor(s): Mistry, Rashmita S
  • et al.

In a time when millions of children and families are living in poverty, it is vital to understand individuals’ causal attributions for poverty and desires to offer assistance to those in need. Research has focused on adults’ reasoning about poverty, but less is known about when attitudes originate and how they evolve over time. This study looks at young children’s reasoning about children and families living in poverty through a causal attribution lens during a developmental timespan when major socio-cognitive shifts occur. Participants were 86 kindergarten, first, and second grade students. Two socio-cognitive tasks and an interview about beliefs and attitudes about poverty were administered. Findings indicate some significant differences in attributions based on grade level, but not socio-cognitive abilities, as well as an overall desire to help those in need. These results suggest that children’s beliefs about poverty shift during the early elementary school years and underscore the need to engage children in developmentally appropriate conversations to ensure they receive accurate information about people living in poverty. Implications and future research are presented.

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