impact of economic hardship.pdf - The Impact of Economic...

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The Impact of Economic Hardship on Black Families and Children: Psychological Distress, Parenting, and Socioemotional Development Vonnie C. McLoyd University of Michigan MCLOYD, VONNIE G. The Impact of Economic Hardship on Black Families and Children: Psycho- logical Distress, Parenting, and Socioemotional Development. GHILD DEVELOPMENT, 1990, 61,311- 346. Family processes affecting the socioemotional functioning of children living in poor families and families experiencing economic decline are reviewed. Black children are of primary interest in the article because they experience disproportionate shares of the burden of poverty and economic loss and are at substantially higher risk than white children of experiencing attendant socioemo- tional problems. It is argued that (a) poverty and economic loss diminish the capacity for supportive, consistent, and involved parenting and render parents more vulnerable to the debilitating effects of negative life events, {b) a major mediator of the link between economic hardship and parenting behavior is psychological distress deriving from an excess of negative life events, undesirable chronic conditions, and the absence and disruption of marital bonds, (c) economic hardship ad- versely affects children's socioemotional functioning in part through its impact on the parent's behavior toward the child, and (d) father-child relations under conditions of economic hardship depend on the quality of relations between tlie mother and father. The extent to which psychologi- cal distress is a source of race differences in parenting behavior is considered. Finally, attention is given to the mechanisms by which parents' social networks reduce emotional strain, lessen the tendency toward punitive, coercive, and inconsistent parenting behavior, and, in tum, foster posi- tive socioemotional development in economically deprived children. Black children always have bome a dis- fathers are sparse. Gonversely, a modest proportionate share of the burden of poverty amount of research exists concerning eco- and economic decline in America, and they nomic loss as experienced by blacks, but this are at substantially higher risk than white work, hke that on whites, focuses almost ex- children for experiencing an array of socio- clusively on men. Little is known about how emotional problems (Gibbs, 1989; Myers & economic loss affects black women and black King, 1983). Drawing from disparate bodies children or the mechanisms by which these of literature, this article examines parental be- effects might occur. Gonsequently, although havior and family processes as consequences blacks are the focal concern in this article, the of poverty and economic loss and, in tum, discussion of the effects of economic loss on as antecedents of impaired socioemotional children rehes heavily on research based on functioning in black children. Although eco- white samples, most of which comes from two nomic hardship can adversely affect parental periods—the 1930s and the 1980s, and family functioning, several factors temper these effects. In
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