In this paper, we explore the conditions of childhood that can lead to poverty throughout the lifecourse and affect transfers of poverty to the next generation. The largely inconclusive evidence base surrounding lifecourse and intergenerational poverty transmission is reviewed before a discussion of the key social processes and contexts that impact on childhood, lifecourse and intergenerational poverty. Prioritized issues - nutrition, childcare and guidance, education, child work, and aspirations and attitudes - are explored within the context of UNICEF's basic framework of survival, protection, development and participation. The paper concludes with an analysis of elements of the wider environment, critical to enabling action in childhood to break poverty cycles. © 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.