Presentation on theme: "Poverty is a psychological situation which can be addressed through community empowerment: tensions in the discourse around the psychologisation of poverty."— Presentation transcript:
Poverty is a psychological situation which can be addressed through community empowerment: tensions in the discourse around the psychologisation of poverty. Carola Eyber Institute for International Development & Health Queen Margaret University
Outline 1)Poverty and psychology: history and approaches in the field 2)Tensions in the theoretical & practical debates [and their ideological consequences] 3)Lay theories: Findings from the CCF Child Poverty Study (Boyden et al, 2003) 4)Potential contributions of psychosocial perspectives on wellbeing and poverty
1) Psychology and poverty: history & approaches in the field Culture of psychology (Oscar Lewis Five Families, 1959) Need for achievement theory (McClelland, 1971) Attribution theory (Feagin, 1972) Poverty of psychology: pathologising the poor and thereby contributing to the maintaining the status quo From the realm of psychiatry: Positive associations between poverty and common mental disorders [Lund et al., 2010] = Psychology has been moving from the micro to macro just as economics has been doing the opposite (Carr, 2013)
2) Tensions in the theoretical & practical debates [and their ideological consequences] We still have debates in the development field about: Dependency theory: people sit outside their huts waiting for WFP to come by Culture of poverty: they dont know any different Individual initiative: I made it out of poverty and so can you Responsibility: victim blaming & pathologising poor (e.g. UK) Explanations have ideological effects.
3) Lay theories of poverty: Findings from the CCF Child Poverty Study (Boyden et al, 2003) Poverty as a lack of discipline Anybody who works hard will always be well off, but all these sub-castes, when they drink and go the wrong way, or they just spend their money like that, or otherwise they get into the poverty. Theres a very old Hindi saying, that those who sleep lose everything, those that are awake get everything. Elderly male, Madhya Pradesh, India.
3) Lay theories of poverty: Findings from the CCF Child Poverty Study (Boyden et al, 2003) Poverty as laziness: Q: What makes some people drop down from one level of wealth or poverty to another, like from well-to-do to okay, and from okay to poor? A: A poor person doesnt like to work hard. Poor people like being idle. When they go to the garden they only do a small bit and go home. They dont follow through. They like wasting time. She has not time to work in the garden but when she goes to their neighbours place she will talk and talk and she has time for that. Male Project Family Educator (PFE), Wamunyu, Kenya.
3) Lay theories of poverty: Findings from the CCF Child Poverty Study (Boyden et al, 2003) Poverty as a state of mind: Poverty is an issue of mental attitude. If the person considers him or herself poor or has poverty mental schemes, then these schemes will be repeated throughout his or her life. If a population considers they are poor, it will replicate through future generations. CCF staff member, Bolivia.
Non-poor respondents: Poverty is a condition of the mind: people passively accept heir circumstances or lack consciousness of viable solutions. Some people are poorer than others because they do not have aspirations of overcoming and are satisfied to the lamentable situation in which they live [Staff member, Honduras] = However, very much the views of outsiders (the non-poor).
Poor people talked about their attempts to cope on personal, household and community levels. Powerlessness, institutionalised discrimination: Indigenous women in Cochabamba (Bolivia) commonly receive poor quality care from the doctor. Some described having walked out of clinics in frustration at the dismissive manner in which they have been treated: they make you feel that… if you die you still dont like to say it in front of them. Relative vs. absolute poverty: for children relative poverty was very important Social power affects childrens wellbeing and this is linked to poverty and changing status of child in relating to poverty
Children and adults experience poverty not simply as a lack of goods and resources but through the complex interplay of material insufficiency, social marginalisation, humiliation and distress: Shame, humiliation, social exclusions seen as worst effects by children. Symbolic markers of wealth = subjective, contextual and very significant, e.g. footwear, cleanliness [access to water or soap to wash] Contextual factors: in Belarus for example the lack of personal spaces was a marker of poverty with real consequences but not in other places.
The human suffering that accompanies poverty and its detrimental effects on social and human capital is present BUT no necessary link between wealth and wellbeing. Social injustice and anguish associated with being poor – or being discriminated against: My father has many wives and he loves the other wives more than my mother. This means that we (children of this wife) never get as much as the other children. My mother is the first wife. The others [wives] have gone to the traditional healer to get charms to influence my father so that he prefers them. [Girl, 14, Kenya]
Exclusion from communal activities Contributing to harambee (government scheme where everyone contributes), reciprocity, communal events etc. Q: You said poor people have no voice. What about those who are poor but have good ideas? Yes, there are wise people who are poor. But what happens in the community is this: say there is a funeral or something, you know if you are very poor that group knows that there is nothing you are going to contribute [in terms of money or goods]. So even if you put up your hand and you want to speak you will be told to put it down [laughter]. Even if you start speaking people will not be very attentive because they know if they want 2 kg of maize or a goat you will not be able to give a goat. So now why do you put up your hand and talk when you are not in the position to produce the goat? So leave the floor to those people who can produce the goods we need. [Man, Wamunyu, Kenya]
5) Potential contributions of psychosocial perspectives on wellbeing and poverty Relationship between poverty and PS wellbeing is complex, bi- directional and dynamic: social exclusion, injustice, insecurity, low self-confidence, powerlessness are challenges to PS wellbeing: When I wear good clothes, then I feel all energetic and I feel good. But when I am not wearing good clothes I feel all tired and I start smelling. [12 yr. old boy sheep herder]. Need of greater sophistication in how we understand the relationship between poverty and wellbeing – we know that the relationship between wellbeing and economic indicators is not straight forward. Psychosocial perspectives moves debates away from narrow material & economic needs to include social, political and cultural goals – more holistic conceptualisation Raises awareness of biases that contribute to the perpetuation of poverty
Studies of poverty tend to overemphasise the role of poverty in childrens lives. Children often represented as paralysed by the weight of their impoverishment – whereas all children in the study reported on pleasurable activities and things they enjoyed. Children have a much larger life outside of their poverty: We are poor but life in the village is good because we are friends [10 yr. old boy, India]. Need to focus on agency, Causes of poverty are structural but attempts to overcome it operate on all levels: Poverty is a psychological situation which can be addressed through community empowerment. The question is: what is it we want to achieve: alleviate poverty, improve wellbeing or achieve social justice?
References Boyden, J., Eyber, C., Feeny, T. and Scott, C. (2003). Children and poverty. Voices of children: Experiences and perspectives from Belarus, Bolivia, India. Kenya and Sierra Leone. Richmond VA: Christian Childrens Fund. Carr, S. (2013). Anti-poverty psychology. New York: Springer. Feagin, J. (1975). Subordinating the poor. Englewood Cliffs: NJ Prentice. Harper, D.J. (2003). Poverty and discourse. In S.C. Carr & T.S. Sloan (Eds), Poverty and psychology. From global perspective to local practice. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. Lewis, O. (1959). Five families: Mexican case studies in the culture of poverty. New York, NY: Basic Books McClelland, D.C. & Winter, D.G. (1971). Human motivation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Lund, C., Breen A., Flisher, A.J., Kakuma, R. Corrigall, J. A. Joska, J.A., Swartz, L. & Patel, V. (2010). Poverty and common mental disorders in low and middle income countries: A systematic review. Social Science & Medicine, 71 (3), 517-528