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Understanding the Culture of Poverty. Material adapted from Ruby Payne’s “A Framework for Understanding Poverty”. Introduction.

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understanding the culture of poverty

Understanding the Culture of Poverty

Material adapted from Ruby Payne’s “A Framework for Understanding Poverty”

  • Regardless of our respective positions within the healthcare system each of us routinely has the opportunity to interact with people who come from the culture of poverty.
  • In order to effectively work with these folks, it is important to develop an awareness and acceptance of their differing cultural background and acquire the skills necessary to communicate effectively and respectfully with them.
  • Most of us do not have the experience and training to know how to best work with this population.
  • To come to the situation with the focus and mind-set of service.
  • To develop and convey EMPATHY not SYMPATHY for the person
  • To accept them as they are and genuinely communicate your desire to assist/serve.
key points
Key Points
  • The Culture of Poverty work is based on patterns – There are exceptions to all patterns.
  • Poverty is Relative – If everyone around you has similar circumstances, the notion of poverty and wealth is vague.
  • Generational Poverty and Situational Poverty are different – Generational Poverty is defined as being in poverty for two or more consecutive generations. Situational Poverty is usually of a shorter duration and typically the result of circumstances such as death, illness, divorce, etc.
key points con t
Key Points Con’t.
  • Everyone brings with them the hidden rules of the socio-economic class in which they were raised – Even though the income level of a person may rise significantly, many of the patterns of thought, social interaction, cognitive strategies, etc. remain with the individual.
  • Schools and businesses operate from middle-class norms and use the hidden rules of middle class –
key points con t6
Key Points Con’t.
  • It’s important to educate ourselves and others and provide support and realistic expectations to those we serve – We can neither excuse persons from poverty nor scold them for not knowing any different.
  • We can’t afford to continue supporting stereotypes and prejudices about the poor – They are not accurate and don’t assist us in doing our jobs.

Poverty is the “extent to which an individual does without resources.”

  • Financial – Having the money necessary to purchase goods and services.
  • Emotional – Being able to choose and control emotional responses, particularly to negative situations, without engaging in self-destructive behavior. Internal resources.
resources con t
Resources Con’t.
  • Mental – Having the mental abilities and acquired skills to deal with daily life (e.g., reading, writing, computing, etc.)
  • Support Systems – Having friends, family and backup resources available to access in times of need. External resources.
characteristics of generational poverty
Characteristics of Generational Poverty
  • Driving Forces for Decision-Making – Survival, Relationships, and Entertainment:
    • Survival Orientation – Little room for the abstract, discussion of academic topics is generally not prized. Discussions center around people and relationships. A job is about making enough money to survive. A job is not about a career.
    • Significance of Entertainment – When one can merely survive, then the respite from the survival is important. Entertainment brings respite.
characteristics of generational poverty con t
Characteristics of Generational Poverty Con’t.
    • Importance of Relationships – Relationships are valued over possessions. One only has people upon which to rely, and those relationships are important to survival. It is worse to steal someone’s girlfriend than their property.
  • Ownership of People – People are possessions. Great deal of fear and comment about leaving the culture, “getting above your raisings.” Too much education is feared because the individual might leave and move on.
characteristics of generational poverty con t11
Characteristics of Generational Poverty Con’t.
  • Importance of Personality – Individual personality is what one brings to the setting – because money isn’t available. The ability to entertain, tell stories, and have a sense of humor is highly valued.
  • Sense of Humor – A sense of humor is highly valued, as entertainment is one of the key aspects of poverty. Humor is almost always about people—either situations that people encounter or things people do to other people.
characteristics of generational poverty con t12
Characteristics of Generational Poverty Con’t.
  • Matriarchal Structure/Woman’s Role – Mothers have the most powerful position in the culture. She functions as a caretaker. Woman’s identity is tied to being a rescuer/martyr. A “good” woman is expected to take care of and rescue her man and her children as needed.
  • Male Role – The rules are rigid and a man is expected to work hard physically, be a lover and fighter. The key issue for males is to be a “man.”
  • Language – Language is about survival. Casual register used.
characteristics of generational poverty con t13
Characteristics of Generational Poverty Con’t.
  • Importance of Non-Verbal Communication – Touch is used to communicate, as are space and non-verbal emotional information.
  • Time – Time occurs only in the present. The future does not exist except as a word. Live in the moment, reactive. Future implications of present actions are seldom considered.
  • Live in the Moment – Most of what occurs is reactive. Setting goals, being proactive, and planning doesn’t happen. Future implications of present actions are seldom considered.
characteristics of generational poverty con t14
Characteristics of Generational Poverty Con’t.
  • Destiny and Fate Govern – Destiny and fate are the major tenets of the belief system. The notion of having choices is foreign.
  • Discipline – About penance/forgiveness, not change.
  • Negative Orientation – Failure at anything is the source of stories and numerous belittling comments.
characteristics of generational poverty con t15
Characteristics of Generational Poverty Con’t.
  • Polarized Thinking – Options are hardly ever examined. Everything is polarized; it is one way or the other. These kinds of statement are common: “I quit” and “I can’t do it.”
  • Lack of Order/Organization – Many of the homes/apartments of people in poverty are unkempt and cluttered. Devices for organization (files, planners, etc.) don’t exist.
suggested interaction strategies
Suggested Interaction Strategies
  • Always project kindness, be empathic and courteous.
  • Assess resources.
  • Use “adult” voice.
  • Avoid bureaucratic language.
  • Give people time before getting “to the agenda.”
  • Ask questions that allow the individual to examine the issue and the options.
  • When explaining the choices and consequences, describe the “why.”
suggested interaction strategies con t
Suggested Interaction Strategies Con’t.
  • Clearly state rules and behavioral expectations. Written handouts may not be enough. Be aware of message tone.
  • State any consequences for each choice up front so that people don’t think consequences are arbitrary.
  • Avoid power struggles and manipulations. Whenever possible allow the individual to solve their own problems.
  • Appreciate and use of humor.
  • Watch your non-verbals.