How Growing Up Poor Affects Your Relationship


The consequences of growing up poor don’t end when you’re a financially stable adult. Here’s how growing up poor affects your relationship or marriage, and how to stop money from destroying love.

consequences growing up poor

Money Personalities

In The 5 Money Personalities: Speaking the Same Love and Money Language, by Scott Palmer and Bethany Palmer say that once you know your Money Personality, you can get to the root of money arguments and start improving your relationship. You’ll discover what has an impact on your loved one’s money decisions, and you’ll learn how to talk about money in a way that’s actually fun! You’ll figure out how to put an end to money secrets and lies once and for all.

I grew up poor. We were on welfare, my mom was single and schizophrenic, and we moved constantly. My husband grew up in a middle class home – they weren’t poor, but they definitely pinched their pennies. Both my husband and I are frugal. We prefer to save our money, not spend it, and are focused on paying off our mortgage instead of buying material possessions or going out for dinner.  It’s ironic that we have the same money personalities, even though I grew up poor and he didn’t.





If you don’t know what your money personality is – or how it affects your relationship – read the book above. If you and your partner fight about money a lot, you might want to learn How to Apologize to Your Spouse After a Money Fight.

The Consequences of Growing Up Poor

If you grew up poor and feel compelled to surround yourself with brand names and possessions, your relationship may suffer. Growing up poor affects your sense of control in life and your relationship, and can lead to impulsivity and easily giving up.

Materialistic couples aren’t as happy. Researchers from Brigham Young University found that couples who are materialistic and who say money is important to them are not as happy or stable as couples to whom money is not important. “Couples where both spouses are materialistic were worse off on nearly every measure we looked at,” said Jason Carroll, a BYU professor of family life and lead author of the study. “There is a pervasive pattern in the data of eroding communication, poor conflict resolution and low responsiveness to each other.”

Couples who focus on money and possessions don’t communicate well and don’t know how to resolve conflict. They also don’t pay much attention to each other. Unfortunately, these researchers didn’t study if these couples grew up poor as individuals. That would be an interesting measure – to see how growing up poor affects a couple’s relationship. But, these researchers did say that how a couple perceives their finances seems to be more important to their marital health and happiness than their actual financial situation.

Growing up poor might lead you to give up on your relationship quicker than if you had grown up with money. Research from the American Psychological Association shows that two people with different childhood backgrounds are likely to respond to uncertainty in different ways, even if they are a couple with a similar socioeconomic background. This research shows that adults who grew up poor were more inclined to consider difficult and uncertain living conditions as beyond their control, while those from affluent backgrounds found them to be within their control. This leads to different reactions (eg, fear or anxiety) to the same situation (an unexpected household bill).



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If you grew up poor, you may be more impulsive than if you had a more affluent family. People from poorer backgrounds behave more impulsively in uncertain situations than those from wealthy families. In addition, after recalling personal financial hardship and then asked to solve a difficult puzzle, people who grew up poor gave up much sooner than those who grew up wealthy. This doesn’t mean you will for sure give up on your relationship just because you grew up poor! It just means there might be a relationship between growing up poor and giving up on things quickly.

consequences growing up poor

“How Growing Up Poor Affects Your Relationship” image by PDPics via Pixabay, CC License

The consequences of growing up poor depend on what you think about. You may have more control over your behavior and relationship choices if you do not focus on economic and financial uncertainties. In the research study, adults from poorer backgrounds who saw photos of economic uncertainty felt significantly lower sense of control and were more impulsive than those from wealthier backgrounds. When they were not shown the photos depicting financial hardships, participants from poor and wealthy backgrounds didn’t differ in impulsivity. This means that growing up poor does not have absolute, certain effects on your relationship.

If you grew up poor, take time before giving up on a relationship or other challenging project. “Persistence is directly tied to myriad important outcomes, including self-control, academic achievement, substance abuse, criminal behavior, healthy eating and overspending,” said study co-author Vladas Griskevicius, PhD, also of the University of Minnesota. “Future research should investigate strategies to prevent individuals from poor childhoods from potentially quitting challenging tasks in the face of adversity.”

What do you think of this information about how growing up poor affects your relationships? I welcome your thoughts below. Note that not all research studies apply to everyone the same way. If you were in one of the studies above, you may have made entirely different choices. Just because you grew up poor doesn’t mean you’ll have a relationship breakdown!

If you’d rather thing about making and saving money instead of growing up poor, read How Do Couples Get Rich? 7 Tips for Growing Wealth Together.

Sources: Can’t buy me love: Study shows materialistic couples have more money and more problems, a study from Brigham Young University, published in the  Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy.



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Sense of Control Under Uncertainty Depends on People’s Childhood Environment: A Life History Theory Approach by Chiraag Mittal, MS, and Vladas Griskevicius, PhD, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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