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Soc Sci Med. 2008 Mar;66(6):1284-96. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.11.033. Epub 2008 Jan 14.

Relation of female gender and low socioeconomic status to internalizing symptoms among adolescents: a case of double jeopardy?

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  • 1Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA.


Characteristics associated with disadvantaged social position, such as low socioeconomic status (SES) and female gender, may play a significant role in the development of internalizing symptoms among adolescents. Indeed, theories of "double jeopardy" suggest that these disadvantaged status characteristics interact to produce particularly harmful mental health outcomes. We tested the hypothesis that lower SES places adolescent females at greater risk for internalizing symptoms than males. We used data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods collected from a 15-year-old adolescent cohort (n=640) at baseline and at two-year follow-up. Female gender predicted internalizing symptoms cross-sectionally and prospectively, whereas household income and caretaker education generally were not associated with internalizing symptoms. Findings overall did not indicate interactive effects between gender and SES indicators. However, subgroups of females at the lowest levels of caretaker education and household income displayed increased risk for specific outcomes, including higher internalizing symptom levels at follow-up and maintenance of severe symptom levels from baseline to follow-up.

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