Does perceived poverty depress you?
Whether children grow up in poor or rich circumstances not only has a major impact on their professional and social career, but also on their physical and mental he alth. Now, a team led by Joshua Rivenbark from Duke University in Durham has discovered evidence that even perceived social status can affect teenagers' well-being and development.
For their study, the scientists analyzed the data from a twin study that followed more than 2,200 children from England and Wales until they came of age. When the test persons were 18, the researchers collected, among other things, the economic situation in the families of the participants, the IQ of the test persons, their mental state, their educational success and possible crimes committed. They also asked participants how poor or rich they felt. To do this, they showed them a picture of a ladder with five rungs, which should symbolize the situation in the country. On the top rung are those who have the best jobs, the most money and the nicest houses. At the bottom, on the other hand, are those who lack money. Where did the participants see themselves and their families?
Teens who placed their families lower down the social ladder (regardless of actual financial situation) were more likely to experience depressive moods or behavioral problems than their twins, who rated the family's social status more positively. They also committed slightly more crimes, on average, had lower levels of education and were more likely to be out of school and out of work by age 18.
Rivenbark and his colleagues therefore believe that the mere impression of poverty can have a negative impact on the lives of young adults. However, such a causal relationship cannot be derived from the data, the researchers say. Finally, it is also possible that teenagers with mental problems assess their own situation more gloomily. In the next step, the researchers therefore want to find out what happens when you help young adults to gain a more positive impression of their social status and whether this can also improve their well-being.