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J Fam Psychol. 2016 Feb;30(1):12-21. doi: 10.1037/fam0000168. Epub 2015 Nov 9.

Effects of economic hardship: Testing the family stress model over time.

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Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Iowa State University.
Department of Psychology, Texas A&M University.


The current study evaluated connections between marital distress, harsh parenting, and child externalizing behaviors in line with predictions from the Family Stress Model (FSM). Prospective, longitudinal data came from 273 mothers, fathers, and children participating when the child was 2, between 3 and 5, and between 6 and 10 years old. Assessments included observational and self-report measures. Information regarding economic hardship and economic pressure were assessed during toddlerhood, and parental emotional distress, couple conflict, and harsh parenting were collected during early childhood. Child externalizing behavior was assessed during both toddlerhood and middle childhood. Results were consistent with predictions from the FSM in that economic hardship led to economic pressure, which was associated with parental emotional distress and couple conflict. This conflict was associated with harsh parenting and child problem behavior. This pathway remained statistically significant controlling for externalizing behavior in toddlerhood.

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