Supporting poverty-stricken populations

The Psychology of Poverty Alleviation: Challenges in Developing Countries by William Ascher (Cambridge University Press); reviewed by Chrissie Fitch.

From the outset of my career, inspired by how psychology influences policies and perspectives, I aimed to positively impact those who have suffered adversity. I identify as British-Sri Lankan (Tamil) as my parents and grandparents migrated from Sri Lanka to London in the early stages of the civil war in the 1980s.

I took the opportunity to teach and mentor underprivileged children and young people in Sri Lanka during my gap year before university, which strengthened my aspirations and portrayed the significance of, for example, Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological systems theory. It was also the year the war ended, so I could see how the tumultuous environment caused by a war in the midst of poverty had affected the growth and development of my students, predisposing them to co-morbidities such as depression, anxiety and other attentional, behavioural, eating, self-image and neurodevelopmental disorders (which, of course, are also experienced by individuals in non-developing countries). This enabled me to implement integrative child-led approaches in my work, and I became aware of the need to be trauma-informed in supporting children and young people, and their families.

Through case studies embedded in cross-cultural research, these concepts and issues are at the forefront of Professor Ascher’s book, The Psychology of Poverty Alleviation. Ascher tackles challenges of social categorisation, intersectionality and affirmative action in countries including but not limited to Argentina, the Dominican Republic, India, Mexico and Sri Lanka. Negative stereotypes of the ‘poor’ being incompetent and the ‘rich’ being successful are debunked and recommendations are put forward to include all groups and eradicate ‘ingroups’ and ‘outgroups’. I have seen first-hand how it is possible for those living in adverse conditions to participate in policymaking.

Therefore, this book broadened my understanding and I believe that aspiring, trainee and specialist psychologists will benefit from it in their work with poverty-stricken populations.

- Reviewed by Chrissie Fitch BSc (Hons) MSc MBPsS, Self-Employed, London; Distance Learning Assessor, Researcher and Learning Support Assistant (Child and Educational Psychology); Associate Editor (Culture);
E: [email protected]; T: @fitchy_chris

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