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Child Dev. 1994 Apr;65(2 Spec No):541-61.

Economic stress, coercive family process, and developmental problems of adolescents.

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Department of Sociology, Iowa State University, Ames 50011.


We propose a model of family conflict and coercion that links economic stress in family life to adolescent symptoms of internalizing and externalizing emotions and behaviors. The 180 boys and 198 girls in the study were living in intact families in the rural Midwest, an area characterized by economic decline and uncertainty. Theoretical constructs in the model were measured using both trained observer and family member reports. These adolescents and their parents were interviewed each year for 3 years during the seventh, eighth, and ninth grades. Our theoretical model proposes that economic pressure experienced by parents increases parental dysphoria and marital conflict as well as conflicts between parents and children over money. High levels of spousal irritability, coupled with coercive exchanges over money matters, were expected to be associated with greater hostility in general by parents toward their children. These hostile/coercive exchanges were expected to increase the likelihood of adolescent emotional and behavioral problems. Overall, results were consistent with the proposed model. Moreover, the hypothesized processes applied equally well to the behavior of mothers and fathers, as well as sons and daughters.

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