Poverty in Latin America and its Influence on Behaviour

In Latin America, poverty is common and affects the majority of the population. At the moment, about 7 million people are living in conditions on poverty. It is a really complex issue which has a lot of aspects and deeply affects individuals and people’s wellness because it makes it difficult or even impossible to buy goods or access services. It also makes it difficult to satisfy basic needs such as: health, living standards condition, education, running water, electricity and some others.

Poverty has psychological variables which are not always being considered within social-economic studies.

Being poor doesn’t represent just a hunger or malnourishment problem or the lack of properties and primary goods but also means an alteration of the human conduct.

Humans conform their way of being, their attitudes towards their lives, their behavior and personalities based on biological, genetic, social and psychological parameters.

The lack of nutrition can cause malnutrition and therefore lead to physiological problems including brain damage. Sustained poverty by families for generations cause the development of genetic patterns such as weight, height as well as the predisposition to develop depression.

There are psychological and social factors that are influenced by poverty, which can determine the formation of different attitudes and behavior.

The researcher ‘Reynaldo Alarcón’ points out that poverty generates its own cultural characteristics such as “lack of interest in planning the future” or “feeling inferior or marginal in comparison to the others”, creating self-segregation behavior, machismo’s behavior in men and martyr’s in women and also social distrust, fatalism’s feelings and a tendency to live in the present without goals or objectives for the future.

Between the social features discovered by Alarcon, there are life situations that make behavior patterns such as overcrowding and the lack of a private life, alcoholism, abandonment, social and domestic violence, authoritarianism within families and other relationships, lack of childhood as a stage of education and life, low educational level and functional illiteracy.

Recent investigations report that, children who have grown up in these conditions could suffer from brain altered connections, which in the future could cause a problem with recognizing and controlling emotions and stress.

All these results bring up, as a consequence, a low physical and intellectual performance. The low speaking ability, scientific knowledge, and the lack of social, academic and cultural learning will be limited and probably generate a future full of hopelessness, frustration and depression.

This helps us to have an expansive and true vision of poverty’s influence and gives us the opportunity to learn how to work within the sector of people who are affected by this condition, especially when we need to offer any kind of social service.


Written by Marisol Pacheco, psychologist and owner of the AKUNA psychology clinic in Arequipa, Peru.

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