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Theses Doctoral

The Family Process Model: Predicting Youth Behavior Problems in Mexican American, African American, and European American Families

Barajas, Rita Gabriela

Research in developmental psychology suggests that economic hardship affects youth indirectly via its negative impact on several family processes. Specifically, parents' mental well-being, family relations, and ultimately parenting, can be adversely affected by the strain of economic hardship and can lead to deleterious consequences on adolescent well-being. While considerable progress has been made in documenting whether these processes account for the adverse effects of economic hardship on family functioning in European American and African American families, less is known about the processes mediating the effects of economic hardship on Latino families. The lack of research on the applicability of the family process model to Latino families is surprising as Latinos are disproportionately affected by economic disadvantage. This study addresses these limitations in the literature by examining the applicability of the family process model to a large sample of Mexican heritage youth and families. Specifically, path models were used to test whether the family process model (where low income-to-needs ratio is negatively associated with maternal mental well-being and more family conflict, which are in turn associated with less warmth and more aggressive parenting, and ultimately child internalizing and externalizing behaviors) fit equally well across Mexican American, African American, and European American families. In addition, a test of the direct influence of family conflict on youth internalizing and externalizing behaviors was conducted. Further, this study examined whether lack of social support from families, lack of social support from friends, fear for safety, and discrimination helped explain the association between income and family conflict. Finally, this study considered whether neighborhood concentrated poverty, immigrant concentration, and residential stability helped explain the association between income-to-needs ratio and maternal mental stress. These questions were answered using data from 2,025 participants in the Project in Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN). Specifically, information from 787 Mexican American, 881 African American, and 357 European American mothers and their children informed the findings of this study. The family process model fit equally well across first generation Mexican American, second generation Mexican American, African American, and European American households. Further, there was a positive direct association between family conflict and child internalizing and externalizing behaviors across all groups. Lack of social support from families, lack of social support from friends, fear for safety, and discrimination helped explain the association between income and family conflict across all groups. Inclusion of neighborhood characteristics did not fit the data well. We were thus unable to test whether neighborhood concentrated poverty, immigrant concentration, and residential stability helped explain the association between income-to-needs ratio and maternal mental stress.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Developmental Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Brooks-Gunn, Jeanne
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
November 9, 2011