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Citation:Mistry, R. S., Vandewater, E. A., Huston, A. C., & Mcloyd, V. C. (2002). Economic well-being and childrenÕs social adjustment: The role of family process in an ethnically diverse low-income sample. Child Development, 73(3), 935-951.

This study aims to evaluate a family economic stress model that links economic hardship to childrenÕs well-being. Specifically, researchers ask whether the model applies to a sample of urban low-income predominantly African American and Hispanic families, whether it generalizes to families with preadolescent children, and whether it makes a difference in childrenÕs social adjustment. After conducting a complex series of statistical analyses, the model did appear to fit the ethnically diverse, low-income sample. Researchers found that economic hardship had an effect on parentsÕ perceptions of economic pressure and their psychological well-being, which in turn affected their parenting behavior. They found that distressed parents felt less able to discipline their children and showed less parental warmth and affection in their interactions with their children. This was associated with increased levels of behavioral problems for their children. The data also revealed that teachers judged children of distressed parents as exhibiting more problem behaviors and less social competence. The sample consisted of 419 children, ages 5 to 12, whose families participated in a Milwaukee program designed to provide economic assistance to low-income families that had at least one employed adult. Parents and children were interviewed individually at home by trained interviewers. Teacher reports were obtained by questionnaires mailed to the childÕs school. Three indicators of economic pressure were used: parentÕs perceptions of financial strain, material hardship, and food insufficiency. Three measures were also used for psychological distress: financial worry, efficacy, and depression. The researchers comment that success in school and beyond hinges not only on academic ability, but also on being able to navigate successfully in social situations, conform to rules, and work independently. Therefore, it is important to assess the immediate and direct impact of economic hardship and poverty on childrenÕs physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional development. The findings may be weakened by the studyÕs heavy reliance on perceptions or judgments from teachers, researchers, and parents rather than actual behaviors observed over time.

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