Innocenti Working Papers

The UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (IRC) was created to strengthen UNICEF's research capability and to support its advocacy for children worldwide. The Working Papers (formerly Innocenti Occasional Papers), are the foundation of the Centre's research output, underpinning many of the Centre's other publications. These high quality research papers are aimed at an academic and well-informed audience, contributing to ongoing discussion on a wide range of child-related issues.


Through Children’s Eyes

An Initial Study of Children’s Personal Experiences and Coping Strategies Growing up Poor in an Affluent Netherlands

Current research on child poverty in rich countries is most quantitative in nature and mainly concentrated on determining its extent and future outcomes. Notwithstanding the valuable results this kind of research has yielded, little is known about what poverty is experienced in the ‘world of children’, i.e., in their daily lives. To consider poverty from a child’s perspective is still rare (e.g. Ridge 2002). The current study of children growing up poor in an affluent Netherlands is an initial effort and adds to the focus on the children’s perspectives and their coping mechanisms. This way, it enables us to see children’s agency in their own environment. The study seeks also to promote children’s visibility and their voices within the scope of research on child poverty in rich countries through both a theoretical and empirical exploration. It discusses how recent sociological approaches to the study of childhood can further advance attempts to consider poverty from the perspective of the child. Additionally, to further understand children’s own responses to growing up in poverty, current literature on coping mechanisms among children is also considered. Subsequently, this study seeks to give children’s perspectives, on the basis of qualitative in-depth interviews conducted in the Netherlands among six-to-sixteen-year-old children (and their parents) of 65 families living at the national minimum benefit level. First analyses show that poverty may affect children’s lives in various ways (materially, socially as well as emotionally), but also that they develop their own solutions to deal with it: children are not just passive victims of the situation they grow up in. Clear individual differences emerge among the children interviewed: both to the extent they are actually confronted with poverty and to the degree they succeed in coping with it. It seems that poor children are not equally affected by poverty. It is therefore important not to consider poor children as a homogeneous group, but rather to emphasise the individual differences within the group of poor children and to identify the mediating factors that may aggravate or diminish the adverse impact of poverty on children’s everyday lives. Further clarifying the mediating factors and subsequently classifying protective and risk factors may give some clear underpinnings for policy makers: factors that prove to be protective should be strengthened, whereas factors that seem to exacerbate a negative influence of poverty on children should be addressed. Listening to children also reveals the issues that they consider important and identifies the areas in which they experience growing up in poverty to be most severely. Such an insight helps to develop policy interventions that attend to their own need and that make a difference to the daily lives of poor children


Keywords: the Netherlands, child poverty, coping strategies, children’s perspectives
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