Children in Global Adversity: Physical, Mental, Behavioral, and Symbolic Dimensions of Health

Catherine Panter-Brick, Daniel Lende and Brandon A. Kohrt

in The Oxford Handbook of Poverty and Child Development

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199769100
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Children in Global Adversity: Physical, Mental, Behavioral, and Symbolic Dimensions of Health


Early childhood experiences are known to influence key biological systems such as brain development, cell growth, hormonal, and immune development, a process known as “biological embedding” that reflects close associations between the social and the developmental gradients of health. Little is known about the full range of physical, socioeconomic, and sociopolitical experiences that matters for children outside Western contexts, and how these experiences differentially affect biological responses and developmental outcomes. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a global health perspective on child development and poverty. We review the literature on child health and global adversity and outline a conceptual framework to discuss both the research and applied aspects of the social ecology of child development. In addition, we evaluate the existing evidence base for children in global adversity: young people who face significant economic poverty, life disruption, violence, and social inequality within larger-scale processes of sociopolitical crises or rapid socioeconomic transformation demanding intervention. We conclude by discussing the ways in which governments can promote optimal development by supporting early, low-cost interventions as well as providing support for more research.

Keywords: global health; child development; poverty; interventions

Article.  13686 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Developmental Psychology

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