Is Love Enough? The Consequences of Family Economic Disadvantage and Parent-Child Relationships for Adolescent Children’s Well-being
Hope, Ashleigh Rene
The family of origin is the primary agent of socialization, with family resources having a profound impact on children’s development. Families vary in the economic and relational resources available, which lead to stratified life course trajectories for children. Children tend to suffer in economically precarious situations, but they tend to thrive when their families encourage healthy and close relationships. Drawing on life course theory, cumulative disadvantage theory, and the stress process model, this dissertation examines the interactions between economic disadvantage and parent-child closeness for the well-being of adolescent children over time. The dissertation incorporates three interconnected studies which each focus on a specific process of how family’s shape adolescent children’s well-being. The analyses for studies one and two utilize data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. In study three, the data are drawn from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth – Young Adult Sample. In study one, I examine the exposure to material hardship by adolescent race/ethnicity and the impact of material hardship and parent-child closeness on adolescent anxiety symptoms and depressive symptoms. I find African American adolescents have greater odds of experiencing material hardship in their families than white or Hispanic adolescents. Material hardship leads to heightened anxiety and depressive symptoms and parent-child closeness reduces these symptoms. In study two, I investigate the reciprocal effects of material hardship on maternal depression and assess whether these effects impact the depressive symptoms of adolescent boys or girls. Maternal depression is both a cause and a consequence of material hardship, but this relationship only holds in families of adolescent boys. Further, maternal depression only impacts the depressive symptoms of girls, but not boys. Study three investigates the long-term role of adolescent poverty in shaping education, material hardship, and self-rated health during the transition to adulthood. I find poverty leads to fewer years of education, greater incidences of material hardship, and lower self-rated health during early adulthood. Whites and women report the worst self-rated health among those who experienced high poverty in adolescence. Adults who reported high closeness to their mothers and fathers receive the greatest returns in self-rated health regardless of adolescent poverty.