This project will compare two models of the relation between family socioeconomic status and children’s healthy social and cognitive development, to elucidate possible mechanisms of the intergenerational transmission of poverty.
The first model will test the allostatic load hypothesis that adverse experiences, such as chronically low socioeconomic resources, will undermine children’s developing capacity for physiological self-regulation. Poor physiological regulation, in turn, will predict worse socioemotional functioning and delayed cognitive development. Thus, physiological regulation will mediate the relationship between poverty and children’s adjustment.
The second model will test an alternate allostatic load hypothesis, adding socialization as an additional mediator. Economic adversity is expected to undermine positive (e.g., sensitivity, warmth) and increase negative (e.g., criticism, harsh punishment) parenting practices. This parenting pattern will predict worse physiological regulation abilities in children, which again will predict poorer adjustment. Thus, the developmental and intergenerational effects of poverty, as a more distal or contextual stressor, will only occur if poverty erodes the quality of parenting, a more proximal or relational stressor.
These models will be examined in four separate archival datasets, including almost 600 children ranging from 2 to 18 years. All datasets include multiple measures of socioeconomic status (e.g., income, occupation, education, resource stress), physiology, socialization, and child adjustment.