How Does Poverty Affect a Teen's Lifestyle?

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Living in poverty can have a number of negative effects on a teen's life. Issues such as low parental monitoring, living in high crime neighborhoods, witnessing violence in the home and lack of financial stability can contribute to teen problems. While some do come out of the experience well-adjusted and go on to succeed in life, others do not. Understanding how the factors associated with poverty can affect the lifestyle of teens can help limit their effects.

Physical Health

Poor health can be influenced by not having access to nutritious foods, adequate health care and parental monitoring of eating habits, according to the American Psychological Association. It might seem difficult to concentrate on these and other health issues when dealing with the stress associated with poverty. However, teens should understand that nutrition and health are necessary for physical and mental development during the teenage years.

Mental Health

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Low self-esteem, anxiety and depression are also associated with living in poverty, according to a 2004 article in the journal "Advances in Psychiatric Treatment." These and similar issues can affect peer relationships and psychological well-being. A teen might feel uncomfortable around peers or not be able to attend social events because of a lack of money. While these issues may seem trivial, they can lead to more pronounced problems, such as behavioral, social or emotional issues.


Whether a teen stays in school and the quality of education for those who do graduate are also affected by poverty. Poor teens might have to contribute to the household by working long hours or looking after younger brothers or sisters. Issues with academics or having friends who are dropouts might also lead to quitting school or falling behind. To decrease the influence of those and other factors, talk with your teen about the importance of education and monitor school work and academic progress.


Poverty is a risk factor for teens engaging in deviant or delinquent behavior, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. A lack of parental monitoring, associating with deviant peers and having trouble at school or home can influence these types of behaviors. Living in a low-income neighborhood or one that is characterized by violence or drug use are also contributing factors. Long-term consequences of delinquency include adult criminality, incarceration and being harmed by violence.