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Annu Rev Psychol. 2007;58:175-99.

An interactionist perspective on the socioeconomic context of human development.

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  • 11The Family Research Group, Department of Human and Community Development, University of California, Davis, Davis, California 95616, USA. rdconger@ucdavis.edu

Abstract

This article addresses the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES), family processes, and human development. The topic is framed as part of the general issue of health disparities, which involves the oft-observed positive relationship between SES and the cognitive, social, emotional, and physical well-being of adults and children. A review of recent research and theory identifies three general theoretical approaches that provide possible explanations for the association between SES and individual development: the social causation, social selection, and interactionist perspectives. Empirical evidence demonstrates support for the social causation view that SES affects families and the development of children in terms of both family stress processes (the family stress model) and family investments in children (the family investment model). However, there also is empirical support for the social selection argument that individual characteristics lead to differences in SES. Especially important, recent research is consistent with an interactionist approach, which proposes a dynamic relationship between SES and developmental change over time. Drawing on the combined set of research findings, the article concludes with the description of an interactionist model that serves as a heuristic for future studies of the links among SES, parenting behaviors, and child development.

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