Key concepts and issues

Even though Young Lives research is only half way through, important issues and clear patterns are emerging in our work across all four study countries.

Childhood poverty

Young Lives takes a multidimensional view of childhood poverty. By engaging with different perceptions of childhood, poverty, well-being and social protection, among others, we provide a new level of critical thinking. We believe that by painting a holistic picture of childhood poverty in all its forms, we can provide a window on the wider dynamics of global deprivation.


In each of our research countries, our findings continually show that, despite growth and macroeconomic progress, inequalities are widening and persistent poverty is growing. Our findings show strong links between poverty and inequality. These are cross-cutting issues and can be seen to play out in terms of access to, and quality of, education, nutrition, resilience, well-being, social capital and the transitions that mark a child’s life-course.

Risk, resilience and well-being

Microeconomic research has recently begun to shed light on the way poor people cope with ‘shocks’ such as death, illness or crop failure. The links between poverty, resilience and the impact of shocks are becoming clear, and Young Lives is providing strong evidence of the vulnerability associated with poverty and how this affects children’s well-being and perceptions.


Education is emerging as one of the central issues in the lives of poor children and families. It is increasingly shown to be of crucial importance to the life opportunities of poor children, making it a social service in increasing demand. But important questions remain over access and quality as well as over the ability of the education system to appropriately prepare young people for their future role in the market economy.

Health and nutrition

Young Lives has gathered a wide range of high-quality data in relation to child health and clear patterns are emerging. Malnutrition and stunting increasingly appear to be central challenges, and both remain intrinsically associated with poverty and inequality. Children from poorer and more marginalised households are those who display the most serious levels of stunting and wasting. Despite excellent improvements in terms of the availability of basic health services, the relationship between levels of parental education, social capital and child health, as well as between community social capital and quality of health facilities, indicate that much is still to be done.

Children in time and place

We are building a holistic picture of the lives of children living in poverty. We want to understand their experiences as social and economic actors embedded in a world of social and economic relations, so our findings are drawn not only from child questionnaires, but also from caregivers and communities. These allow us to examine in detail the inter/intra-household and community relations that are so important to breaking the ‘cycle of poverty’ and to the child’s life-course in general.