Course:KIN366/ConceptLibrary/Socioeconomic Status

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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
Office Hours:
Class Schedule:
Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Socioeconomic Status (SES) refers to the social standing or class of an individual or group, often measured in a combination of education, income, and occupation. An examination of SES shows inequity in power, control, and privilege of resources (American Psychological Association, 2014). In discussions involving children, lower socioeconomic status families are often unable to achieve access to the same resources and experiences to their higher counter parts, which puts their children at risk for developmental issues (Brooks-Gunn & Duncan, 1997).

Overview and Statistics

SES affects the individuals in our society in a profound manner, as low SES is correlated with lower education, poverty, poor health, and decreased quality of life. Not only does low SES affect adults, but also children and developing youths from low-income households. Academic success, psychological health, and physical health are some factors that are affected by SES (American Psychological Association, 2014). The three main factors contributing to socioeconomic status (SES) are as follows:


The concept of Income refers to salary, wage, rental fees, profit, and any sort of earnings received. Income can also come in the form of workers compensation, social security, pensions, interests or dividends, welfare, or other governmental, public, or family financial assistance.


Education is a factor that associates itself with income, as income tends increase with higher levels of education. Higher levels of education are found to correlate to better economic and psychological outcomes, such as increases in income, and greater social support and networking (American Psychological Association, 2007). Education plays a big part in developing relevant skills for acquiring jobs, and specific qualities that differentiate people of higher SES from lower SES. Research shows that students within low SES environments have lower and slower academic achievement when compared with students of higher SES (American Psychological Association, 2014).


Occupation is a main factor of SES that is a combination of both income and education. Occupational status refers to the education required to obtain a certain job, and different income levels that are associated with different kinds of occupations. Furthermore, it shows achievement, recognition, and certifications in skills required for specific jobs. Occupational status is measured through social position, and is measured by describing job details and duties, psychological demands of the job, and decision-making ability and control.


The distance between low income and high-income demographics has been growing in Canada, with 1 in 8 school-aged children coming from families that make an annual income less than $20,000 (Bredin, 2014). This point ties in to the increasing issue of socioeconomic status establishing itself as a factor that heavily influences the overall physical activity levels of children (Stockie, 2009). Unfortunately, only 9% of males, and 4% females between ages 6 to 19 meet the criteria of Canada’s recommended physical activity guidelines, which consists of 60 minute moderate to vigorous bouts physical activity for 6 days a week (Colley et al., 2011). On top of low percentages of physical activity participation in youth, sport participation has declined, with lowest level of participation stemming from children from low-income households. Furthermore, for children 5 years and under, only 23% of children from low-income households participated in organized sport, whereas 67% of children from high-income households participated in organized sport (Colley et al., 2011). These percentages are brought to an even greater extreme when it evaluating to specialized sports such as swimming, gymnastics, dance, and martial arts, as 18% of children from low SES families participated and 47% of children from high-income participated (Bredin, 2014). From these statistics, some trends arise as evidence suggests there is a correlation between increased physical activity and income level, and that children from low-income households participate in fewer sports than children from higher income households. Furthermore, it has been documented that children from a low SES background spend more time in sedentary behavior than children from high SES, which may be an additional factor that contributes to increased health risks among children from low-income households (Drenowatz et al., 2010). Specifically, it has been found that children from lower income households had greater access to screen-time and media in their bedrooms, but had lower access to portable and physical playing equipment such as bikes and jump ropes. To further elaborate on this, evidence also shows children from low SES households watched television with their parents and siblings more often than engaging in physical activity (Tandon et al., 2012). These findings support the statement that children from low socioeconomic status spend more time in sedentary behavior than children from high socioeconomic status.

Health Outcomes


Low socioeconomic status has previously been correlated to growth delay and inadequate neurobehavioral development in utero, as they are more likely to be born prematurely, at low birth weight, a defect, fetal alcohol syndrome or aids (DiPietro et al., 1999). These factors are often attributed to poor prenatal care, substance abuse, and poor nutrition during pregnancy (Crooks, 1995). This further elaborates on the suggestion that low SES impacts the development of children not only during their upbringing, but also during pregnancy.


Following birth, low SES infants are statistically more likely to suffer injuries and die during childhood and over their lifespan (Overpeck et al., 1998). This phenomenon can be attributed to the notions that SES not only affects an infant’s well being during pregnancy, but often long throughout their childhood development. During development, children in low SES families tend to lack the support, and access to resources that prove to be integral to an infants development. Some of these conditions include inadequate nutrition, exposure to second hand tobacco smoke, failure to receive recommended immunizations, and inadequate access to health care (Politt et. al., 1996). This elaborates on the belief that high SES families are able to afford their children with an array of goods, parental actions, and social connections that potentially contribute to childhood development, and that many low SES children lack access to those same resources and experiences, thus putting them at risk for potential developmental complications (Brooks-Gunn & Duncan 1997).


Lack of Physical Activity and Sport Experiences

Holt et al., (2011) conducted and published a study that examines low-income parents and their children with respect to the benefits and challenges of sport participation. One main finding from the article states that parents and their children report that sport participation has a range of benefits for personal and social development. Common themes for social development consisted of forming relationships, making new friends, developing social skills, and building teamwork. Emotional control, exploration, confidence, discipline, academic performance, weight management, and keeping kids busy were seven common themes of personal development. By lacking opportunity within physical activity and sport, children within low SES environments may not reap the benefits that these opportunities offer, when compared to their higher SES counterparts. One of the major consequences of a lack in physical activity and sport is school readiness. As mentioned before, a correlation exists between activity levels and socioeconomic status, as children from higher income families tend to be engaged in sport and physical activity more than children from low-income families. These opportunities teach values of discipline and focus that are skills that can be transferred into a classroom environment. Therefore, we can suggest that children from a higher socioeconomic background would likely perform better in school, due to exposure in sport experiences centered on values and disciplines similar to the skills needed in learning environments. Children from a low SES background would lack these opportunities and not necessarily develop these skills. According to West, J., Denton, K., & Germino-Hausken, E. (2000), children from low-income families score lower on fine motor writing compared to higher income children. The performance outcomes on both fine motor writing and object manipulation tasks have significant effects on reading and math, as defined in a study conducted by Dinehart et al. (2013). Another influential consequence of physical activity and sport is behavior. A lack in inhibitory control, and difficulty maintaining attention when asked to focus with or without distraction, was a development found in children who tended to be inactive. Furthermore this evidence seems to predict high school academic performance and graduation rates, as their working memory is not as strong as children who are physically active, ultimately influencing reading and math success (Bredin, 2014).

Language and Literacy Development

Low SES environments have been associated with minimal dialogue from parents, and limited amounts of reading. Conversely, high SES families tend to use richer dialogue with more child-directed speech. On average, children of high SES are exposed to 400 more words than children within low SES environments at the age of 10 months (Goode, 1999). As language input seems to be important influences for children, SES seems to heavily affect what type of parenting style children will receive. High SES parents tend to ask more open-ended questions, creating an environment that encourages children to further develop their speech (Clark, 2009). Conversely, low SES families tend to adopt parenting styles that use imperatives and more generic yes or no questions, potentially limiting the vocabulary and word exposure seen by their children (Clark, 2009). Differences in reading ability and comprehension development are also seen between low and high SES children, which also become greater as children become older. By the time students enter high school, children from low SES families will be substantially farther behind children from high SES families (Aikens and Barbarin, 2010). The home environment is identified as a main contributor to a child’s development of literacy (Aikens and Barbarin, 2010). Children in lower SES families are read to less often and have fewer resources at home, which contribute to the lower reading scores found in low SES children (Evans, 2004). Furthermore, high SES children continue literacy development in the summer months by using resources found at home, such as certain parents not having to work, books at home, and participation in summer camps. Additional practice in the summer facilitates a greater gap greater between high and low SES children. In addition to the child’s home situation, the neighborhood in which they live in provides a strong influence on development as well. Families who fall within the low SES classification are more likely to reside in neighborhoods that consist of drug trafficking, violence, crime, and litter, when compared to high SES households. Issues of safety arise in certain communities that may prevent children from being able to play outside. Furthermore, support systems for school and individuals in the community heavily influence the development of a child’s reading ability. As youngsters age, it seems that low SES children in poor neighborhood environments fall behind their high SES counterparts in reading growth, as they tend to have certain difficulties developing reading skills at the grade school level (Aikens and Barbarin, 2010).

Barriers to Physical Activity

In a study conducted by Holt et al. (2011), there were three major barriers and constraints that restricted their children from engaging in physical activity opportunities. These factors are finance, time management and scheduling demands, and awareness.


Finance was found to be a major barrier that is limiting children from low-income families in participating in sport and physical activity. The parents’ consensus was that the money needed to cover the cost of physical activity programs proved to be factors in how much opportunity their youth received (Stockie, 2009). The inability for families to afford registration fees, equipment, travel costs, and other additional costs are true limiting factors that restrain certain children from participating in physical activity opportunities. For the children from low socioeconomic background who are participating in a physical activity program, finance was a barrier for maintaining children’s participation, as they grew older. As children improve in sport, sport program fees start to increase as the level of play progress to a higher level. The addition of spring/summer leagues, tournament fees, flights, top of the line equipment are just few factors that are associated with transition from recreational to competitive play.


Another barrier is time management and scheduling demands. Some parents work multiple jobs, making it difficult to facilitate children’s sport participation. Within time management and scheduling demands, transportation and travel options were also established as a large source of conflict (Stockie, 2009). To further elaborate on this, many sports not only require money, but also different forms of transportation to practice, games, tournaments and so forth, meaning that low SES families may not able to provide or afford transportation for their kids. At times, even the most basic forms physical activity such as going to the playground or playing catch are not met. Parents are often busy providing for their families in order to put food on the table, which makes it difficult for individuals to make time for physical activity or even play.


Lastly, there is a lack of awareness regarding access to resources, subsidies, and low cost programs, and a lack of knowledge about the importance of a physically active lifestyle, especially in low SES families. Parents who are engaged in careers with physical labor and exhausting work may not view physical activity as positive and unimportant enough not to promote it in their children and they are less likely to put their children’s need for physical activity ahead of other family needs (Halpern, 2003). In addition, children with parents who work long hours and cannot afford to hire a babysitter may be told to stay indoors by their parents to avoid risky behavior if allowed outdoors, especially if they reside in a dangerous neighborhood. Therefore, this may place a variety of restrictions on children’s movements and would result in delayed developmental benefits (Halpern, 2003). Furthermore, we assume that individuals who are within low SES have little experience with education regarding physical activity and nutrition guidelines. This lack in education and awareness could ultimately contribute towards a lack in nutrition and poor overall health.

Suggested Intervention

A lack of awareness in access to resources, subsidies, and low cost programs was one of the major barriers to partaking in physical activity. Fortunately, a variety of these programs exist, which means promotion of availability and accessibility to funding resources and greater awareness of available funding is necessary, as many parents are unsure of additional funding sources available to them (Holt et al., 2011). In Vancouver, Canada, their city’s Leisure Access Program can help elaborate as they provide free admission to public swimming and ice skating sessions, as well as free skate rentals and lessons during public skating sessions for families who are in financial need (City of Vancouver, 2013). This presents the idea that such programs exist, but many families may not know about it unless this information is presented to them directly. To combat this, an effective way of spreading awareness in access to these programs and resources is to provide newsletters and program flyers to areas that have a higher percentage of lower income families. Despite it being virtually impossible to move all demographics away from low SES, programs are available that provide support, guidance, subsidy, funding, and cost-effective solutions for individuals of low SES classification to grant them equitable access to resources that may be out of their reach.


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