Social Question

john65pennington's avatar

Do children tend to follow in the footsteps of a parent(s) on welfare?

Asked by john65pennington (29163points) February 16th, 2012

I asked this question on Answerbag several years ago and maybe it needs repeating. Question: do children of parents that receive public assistance, tend to follow in their parents footsteps, as adults?

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26 Answers

Pandora's avatar

Sometimes. It really depends on how they feel about public assistance.
Some see it as their right, some see it as an embarrasment and do what they can to get away from it. Some may grow up feeling that they can never break lose from it. So it defines them.
Some are just scam artist looking for a easy way to live.
Some simply want more out of life and don’t want to be defined by it and do all they can to become educated and move on.
I grew up in a poor neighborhood where I knew plenty of families on welfare. Sometimes it went a few generations and sometimes the second generation did all they could to get out.
I grew up with plenty of children who where ashamed to be on public assistance and some that really didn’t care. Some of the ones that were ashamed, moved away from it all. And others failed to see it possible to become something. They labeled themselves as losers and gave in.

john65pennington's avatar

Pandora, great answer…..truly great, jp

Pandora's avatar

It does all come down to self esteem.

Buttonstc's avatar

Unless there is a conscious decision to do otherwise (or therapeutic intervention) most children tend to follow in their parents footsteps in all sorts of ways other than just attitudes on welfare.

Smoking, alcoholism, addictions, domestic violence, all leave their legacy one generation after the next despite logic to the contrary.

But biology is not destiny. And some exert great effort not to follow the family legacy in many issues.

john65pennington's avatar

Button, my wife and I smoke cigarettes. Our children hate it and have never smoked. How did this happen?

marinelife's avatar

“Recent research shows that although work effort is affected adversely by the generosity of welfare programs, effects on family structure appear quite weak, most welfare experiences are relatively short, and the majority of women who grew up in homes heavily dependent on welfare do not rely on those programs when they are young adults.”

Science Magazine

Nullo's avatar

I have seen a system-milker pass the torch on to her daughter. I work with a guy who grew up on government cheese and now supports a wife (a teacher) and three kids.

Jude's avatar

@john65pennington Check out @marinelife‘s post. You have your answer there.

john65pennington's avatar

Okay, I read it and thanks.

Buttonstc's avatar


As I said, “unless there is a conscious effort….”

Your kids exerted a conscious effort to take the harder road (rather than simply allowing inertia to take its natural course). And I’m sure that reason, logic and health statistics played a part.

But in spite of all the facts now available as to why smoking takes such a toll on one’s health, far too many young people end up smoking simply because that’s what their parents do or did.

I grew up with two chain smokers and have never willingly smoked (not even in my school years) so of course it’s possible. But my younger brother ended up as a smoker for many years (in spite of SEVERE asthma since infancy).

Would that have happened had he grown up with non-smoking parents? Highly doubtful.

jca's avatar

When I used to work for the local Public Assistance office, many kids of parents on PA came in and it was like a right of passage for them to “have a worker” now. “She’s my worker!” they would exclaim proudly, in reference to me. They would tell each other “call your worker” as if the caseworker was their personal assistant. Their parents taught them the system, and taught them that if they had a baby, go right to “welfare” and get a worker, a card, benefits, etc. It wasn’t looked down on, and the parent made it easy for them by explaining the system. Of course, this did not apply to all, but for a lot of them, it was nothing to be ashamed of, nothing that was foreign.

tom_g's avatar

What kind of public assistance? Unemployment? A few dollars in food stamps for a couple of months? Access to public roads? Police and/or fire services? Public education? Military pay? Research grants?

jca's avatar

@tom_g: You did not direct your question to me, but I am assuming it’s to me since I used the term “Public Assistance.” “Public Assistance” the formal term for welfare. Public Assistance means rental assistance, financial assistance, food stamps, Medicaid. Public Assistance is administered through the local Social Services Department of the county (at least in the state I work in). Public Assistance does not mean unemployment insurance, police, fire services, public education, military pay, or access to public roads.

Your wording sounds like you are cynical of what I wrote. Do you think I am lying? Or am I misunderstanding the way you worded what you wrote?

Buttonstc's avatar

Children Learn What They Live

If Children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.

If Children live with hostility, they learn to fight.

If Children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.

If Children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.

If Children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.

If Children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.

If Children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.

If Children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.

If Children live with tolerance, they learn patience.

If Children live with praise, they learn appreciation.

If Children live with acceptance, they learn to love.

If Children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.

If Children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.

If Children live with sharing, they learn generosity.

If Children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.

If Children live with fairness, they learn justice.

If Children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.

If Children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.

If Children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

jerv's avatar

It does depend. I have a cousin who grew up where Welfare Queen it’s a respected “occupation”. When she was 12, her idol was a 16 year old high school dropout who was about to have a second kid. “Do you know how big her check is going to be?”, she said with awe.

On the other hand, there is my mother. We were on welfare for a while, then she worked her way off of it once I was old enough to go to school. The only public assistance I have ever been on is unemployment after getting laid off.

It could be argued that we both followed in our mothers footsteps, but I think it has less to do with parenting and more to do with the overall environment one is raised in.

jca's avatar

Unemployment does not count, as it is something people pay into, by working. I don’t think of unemployment as having the same stigma attached to it as Public Assistance, nor is it generally considered public assistance.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I did not even know there was a welfare system until I became seriously down and out, with three kids to raise by myself. I fought for a year and then someone told me about welfare. I got food stamps and medical. It was really a life saver. This pertains because it’s also possible that a persons who grows up knowing nothing but welfare may find that it’s perfectly natural to claim it. I would say it all depends on the attitudes of the parents. If they make no effort to better themselves, or to encourage their children to reach for more, then there is a good chance the children will stay right at the level. IMO.

jerv's avatar

@jca There are those that consider any money you get from the government to be “public assistance”.

Linda_Owl's avatar

If you grow up living in poverty, the habits you develop tend to be lifelong. Even if you manage to graduate from high school & attend college, old habits die hard. You generally do not learn to manage money well, because there is never enough of it to manage. Your diet choices tend to be less than desirable, because of the food you grew up consuming. You still tend to live from paycheck to paycheck. My family did not get any sort of Public Assistance or Food Stamps, but I grew up wearing second-hand clothes & even when I shop today, thrift stores are my first choice. Some people can break the cycle of having grown up in poverty, but it is always a very difficult transition requiring radical alterations in how a person thinks.

jca's avatar

@jerv: I understand there are people that look down upon unemployment as money from the government, but it’s more insurance than public assistance, as you earn unemployment by working and having money paid into it. If you don’t work, you don’t qualify. Whereas with public assistance, it does not matter what your work history is or isn’t.

Nullo's avatar

@Linda_Owl A family friend grew up during the Great Depression; to this very day, she keeps a stockpile of canned goods in her house.
In any case, thriftiness is a virtue.

jerv's avatar

@jca That’s as may be, but that still doesn’t change the fact that there are differing opinions on that. besides, many who hold the opinion that unemployment is public assistance “know” that everybody on unemployment stays on it for as long as possible, sitting at home, drinking beer and doing drugs, because they are lazy people who don’t want to work.

wilma's avatar

@jerv I don’t doubt that there are folks who look down on people who get unemployment, but what I see is usually a very different feeling. Where I live it is much more like @jca says. The unemployed, (and we have lot of unemployed) have worked, paid into the un-employment insurance and most just want to get back to work. Of course there are exceptions as there always are.

jerv's avatar

@wilma Maybe I just hang out where there are too many Conservatives. (Not just normal ones, but the, “Barack Osama is a Muslim born in Kenya!”, “Taxation is theft!” crowd.)

jca's avatar

@jerv: I think the perception you discuss may have been true at one time, but now with the economy like it is, so many laid off from all walks of life and all educational backgrounds, I think the perception is no longer accurate.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Linda_Owl I agree with most of what you said, except for the part about “You generally do not learn to manage money well, because there is never enough of it to manage.” When you’re poor you manage every single penny.

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