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Child Dev. 1992 Jun;63(3):526-41.

A family process model of economic hardship and adjustment of early adolescent boys.

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  • 1Department of Sociology, Iowa State University, Ames 50011.


We propose a family process model that links economic stress in family life to prosocial and problematic adolescent adjustment. Employing a sample of 205 seventh-grade boys aged 12 to 14 years (M = 12.7) and living in intact families in the rural Midwest, the theoretical constructs in the model were measured using both trained observer and family member reports. In general, results were consistent with the proposed model. Objective economic conditions such as per capita income and unstable work were related to parents' emotional status and behaviors through their perceptions of increased economic pressures such as the inability to pay monthly bills. These pressures were associated with depression and demoralization for both parents, which was related to marital conflict and disruptions in skillful parenting. Disrupted parenting mediated the relations between the earlier steps in the stress process and adolescent adjustment. The emotions and behaviors of both mothers and fathers were almost equally affected by financial difficulties, and disruptions in each parent's child-rearing behaviors had adverse consequences for adolescent development.

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