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Poverty and Child Emotional and Behavioral Problems: Racial/Ethnic Differences in Processes and Effects

Jane D. McLeod and James M. Nonnemaker
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 41, No. 2 (Jun., 2000), pp. 137-161
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2676302
Page Count: 25
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Poverty and Child Emotional and Behavioral Problems: Racial/Ethnic Differences in Processes and Effects
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Abstract

Using a sample of four to nine year-old children from the 1992 wave of the Children of the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth data set, we evaluated racial and ethnic differences in the effects of current poverty and the persistence of poverty on child emotional and behavioral problems, and in the variables responsible for those effects. We considered three sets of variables in the latter analysis-mother's early characteristics and behaviors; correlated sociodemographic characteristics; and mediators (neighborhood problems, mother's psychological resources, and characteristics of the home environment)-and evaluated their relevance across three racial/ethnic subgroups (blacks, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic whites). Consistent with our expectations, we observed a significantly stronger effect of the persistence of poverty on child problems for whites than for blacks, an effect that is attributable to the relatively strong association between poverty and mother's prior history of delinquency and current marital status among whites. The effect of poverty on child problems was substantially explained for blacks by mother's early self-esteem, whereas mediating processes took on greater relevance for Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites. Our results support the conclusion that there are racial/ethnic differences in the selection processes and proximal conditions that are responsible for the diminished psychological well-being of poor children.

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