Poverty is one of the most frequently mentioned problems of our time and its emergence can be dated back to the development of civilised society. There can be no doubt about the seriousness of this phenomenon across the centuries as it is mentioned in the oldest books such as the Mahabharata and the Bible. Philosophical thinkers who have significantly influenced the thinking of people have also commented on the subject. As early as Confucius (551-479 BC), he was aware of the connection between the poor and the state and called it the "sixth calamity" that good government wants to avoid (along with the other five, which are sudden death, sickness, poverty, repulsive appearance and weakness). Almost two centuries later, Aristotle defines the status of the poor in the context of social classification. A century later, Thomas Aquinas defines the moral justification for people who steal food because of the risk of death by starvation.
A more serious approach to this phenomenon and a settling into scientific and social discourse was the definition of individual or household income. $1.9 or $2.5 per day are established as the measurable poverty line. We could easily conclude that the problem of poverty is addressed by the authorities in the Western world through social benefits. The practice in exclusionary localities proves otherwise. In addition to poverty itself, we encounter other concomitant phenomena that often complicate the situation of the poor significantly.
From the perspective of scientific disciplines, we know that poverty is not only the absence of material security, but also a broad set of psycho-social deficiencies most often related to secondary (environmental) and tertiary (state) factors.
From a historical perspective, we can argue about the transformation of poverty and its concomitant phenomena in which poverty was primarily a lack of food and was caused by illness, injury or the loss of a partner. However, even in this situation, social standards and norms of behaviour (decency, respect, etc.) were maintained.In the current situation, in addition to the lack of food (despite the provision by the state authorities), there is also the risk of losing one's housing, accompanied by the powerful influence of modern technologies, the loss of social control and the spread of sociopathological risks (drugs, alcohol, gambling).
The current situation where poverty among at-risk groups is increasing begs the question, why are the poor still poor despite interventions by the state, institutions and organizations? We know that settling debts and increasing family capital, i.e. imaginatively creating a new start in life, will not help, on the contrary it will do more harm.
A thorough historical discourse allows us to look at poverty within the social sciences. The first one is philosophy as mentioned in the introduction of the article. Another thematically important philosopher who addressed this topic and placed it in the context of modern times and economic-power relations was F. Engels. In contrast, theology elevated poverty to a virtue, and it later caught the attention of sociologists and economists in the context of world events. At the end of the 20th and 21st centuries, human poverty became a subject of investigation, and within anthropology, psychology and medicine. It should be added that, in certain manifestations, it is also being addressed in special and social pedagogy as a consequence of poverty.
A multidisciplinary approach is needed to understand poverty. I believe that the alpha and omega of understanding life in this reality is a psychological approach. In addition to the descriptive or explanatory function of the functioning of the mechanisms of either decision-making, thinking or understanding of different situations and relationships, it also examines physiological-biological processes and their influences.
Poluektova et al (2015) argue that O. Lewis and his research, considered by many to be controversial, preceding the emergence of the Concept of the Culture of Poverty (1968), was one of the first systematic investigations that moved the problem of poverty to the psychological level. It should be added that Lewis had a battery of psychological questions to ask in his decade-long research on people living in poverty.
Psychological investigations of this phenomenon often lead to very surprising findings. To give an example, let us take a few researches from this discipline and their results. In a series of experiments published in 2013, Shafir and his colleagues found that people with financial problems showed cognitive decline similar to those with an average of 13 points lower IQ. This fact can also be compared to decision making in a situation after a complex night of sleep
The collaboration between psychology and medical science, more specifically in neurology, appears to be crucial. Neurology, neuropsychology - deals with the interrelationship between the functioning of the human brain and the human psyche. Clinical neuropsychology which deals with the translation of this knowledge into clinical practice.
In their collaborative research, Martha J. Farah (psychologist) and Kimberly Noble (neuroscientist) examine poverty and its impact on cognitive development. Farah's research has focused on examining poverty in the context of memory and K. Noble reveals links children with lower socioeconomic status and lower volume " ????search
"The research findings show a very common view of why poor people stay poor, that it is not that they are not trying hard enough, that they are irresponsible, that they are making poor choices, that they are not staying in school, etc. But... neurons are not blamed. They don't expend effort, they don't have good or bad behavior. They just behave according to the law of the natural world."
A concomitant of poverty is stress (a topic relevant to medicine and psychology). Not having enough to cook, not knowing how to pay the rent, not knowing how to pay debts or other expenses, whether related to the children's school or for travel to work.
We can look at the obstacles in life related to stress from two angles. We see overcoming an obstacle as a positive process that allows us to experience a sense of achievement and raises self-esteem. Humans are equipped with adaptive reactivity to situations of short-term, acute stress: adaptation enables survival in these threatening situations. Conversely, long-term stress can have an absolutely devastating effect on an individual's organism, mediated by a disturbance in the production and function of the main stress hormone, cortisol.
According to Kostiuk, cortisol is the most important stress hormone. Its main purpose is to mobilize the organism during stress, primarily through its effect on energy metabolism. By its hyperglycaemic effect, cortisol ensures a sufficient supply of glucose to the brain, whose reserves are increased by stimulating gluconeogenesis from proteins, promotes lipolysis and thus contributes to the acquisition of energy, and affects mineral metabolism (sodium retention, potassium excretion). By stimulating the cardiovascular system, cortisol maintains circulatory function. Cortisol has a dampening effect on immunity. Furthermore, cortisol has a significant anti-inflammatory effect (stimulates the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines."
Chronic stress and inflammation contribute to the development of pain and depression as a result of serotonin deprivation and degenerative changes in the hippocampus. Patients who suffer from depression often also suffer from HPA axis dysfunction with hypercortisolaemia, which contributes significantly to the development of cardiovascular disease. Depressive disorder has also been shown to be associated with increased cardiovascular risk.
Although the psychology of poverty is not anchored within the psychological disciplines, an analysis of the global scientific literature reveals two main areas of research on the psychological aspects of poverty. The first is research on the subjective causes of poverty, and the second is research on the psychological consequences of poverty.
The life of the poor has been studied by the anthropologist O. Lewis, already mentioned. In one of his findings, the author of the concept of the Culture of Poverty argues that children by the age of six or seven years acquire all the stereotypes of behaviour, thinking, acting or attitudes that will prevent the child from escaping poverty in his adult life. Lewis' claim is supported by Mabuza Florcy, who argues for a "poverty mentality" in her dissertation.
In examining poverty, she asks the basic question more broadly, asking not just why people are poor, but why people stay poor in the first place. She follows up by asking why poverty seems to keep people in "some" psychological bondage from which they are unable to escape. It demonstrates that any help whether individual, family, community or other to break this bondage comes to naught. The author rejects the definition of poverty in terms of material deprivation as very "narrow" and argues that poverty should be defined in the context of the whole person and therefore in terms of the spiritual and mental. A positive mindset of a person, thus, can have a major impact on breaking the aforementioned binds.
In the Czech and Slovak environment, psychological research on poverty is rather marginal and is not part of the mainstream, and therefore psychological journals (e.g. Czechoslovak Psychology, Psychology for Practice, Psychology and its Contexts) have not yet published papers dealing with this issue. However, this does not mean that this phenomenon has not been analysed by scientific research. In the Czech Republic, the sociologist Mareš (1999, 2000) and Mareš, Rabušic (1996, 1997) have focused on the phenomenon of poverty.