Risk and Resilience

Exposure to multiple risk factors has negative effects on children, and adversely influences all avenues of a child’s life. Risk factors can range from exposure to political violence and forced migration from climate change, to unsafe cultural practices such as genital cutting (Belsky, 2012). The most prevalent risk in children’s lives, however, with a global trend of half of the human population living under US $2.50 per day, is poverty (UNICEF Report, 2016). Poverty is an acute threat to children’s well-being, with 385 million children living in extreme poverty across the world. The pandemic has thrown between 88 and 114 million people into extreme poverty (earnings less than US$1.90 per day), according to the World Bank’s biennial estimates of global poverty (Wall Street Journal, 2020).

picture source: Brookings, 2020

Ninety percent of the most vulnerable households in India (second- and third-income quintiles pre-COVID) have experienced declines in income since the nationwide lock down (Rustandy Center, 2020). With seventeen percent of its 1.4 billion residents in the 0-8 years age group, there may be both immediate and long-term adverse consequences for an entire generation of early learners, as nationwide school closures and household stress have been some of the prominent challenges faced by low-income Indian families (India Census, 2016) (Rustandy Center, 2020). Municipal schools in Mumbai opened doors to welcome students after two years in June 2022.

Since I took classes at Penn GSE on Risk, Resilience, and Prevention Sciences, I have been enraptured by how positive adaptation in the face of adversity protects and promotes children facing risks. It’s going to be imperative to detect which protective factors are apparent in children being negatively affected by COVID-19 related school closures and family economic hardships, to name a few potential risks. Protective family mechanisms, such as emotional support, consistent communication, and structured activities may be home-based factors to focus on, considering the unprecedented amounts of time people are spending in their homes. Supporting homes through these transitions, and witnessing the risk and resilience phenomenon is a watershed moment in India’s social and economic growth in the 21st century.

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About Anahita Kumar

I'm a PhD student at Penn GSE in the Human Development and Quantitative Methods Division. I research behavioral interventions such as cash transfers and phone-based nudges, parent engagement and decision-making, household stress, child labour practices, and children's learning environments, in India, Côte d'Ivoire, and Ghana.