Research Paper Rand Conger Keith Widaman

Evaluation of the Interactionist Model of Socioeconomic Status and Problem Behavior: A Developmental Cascade Across Generations
Monica J. Martin, Rand D. Conger (Affiliate in Psychology), Thomas J. Schofield, Shannon J. Dogan, Keith F. Widaman (Affiliate in Psychology), M. Brent Donnellan and Tricia K. Neppl

Considerable evidence shows that low socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with poorer physical health, emotional well-being, and cognitive functioning for both children and adults. SES also appears to be an important predictor of problem behaviors in childhood and adolescence, such as delinquency, aggression, conduct problems at school, and other externalizing behaviors.

 Furthermore, research has linked child and adolescent problem behavior to adverse outcomes later in life, including school drop-out, forgoing post-secondary education, longterm unemployment in adulthood, and time spent in correctional facilities. In this study, researchers examine how SES in one generation affects the next generation in order to aid prevention research by better identifying the best points at which to interrupt negative cascades.


The current multigenerational study evaluates the utility of the interactionist model of socioeconomic influence on human development (IMSI) in explaining problem behaviors across generations. The IMSI proposes that the association between socioeconomic status (SES) and human development involves a dynamic interplay that includes both social causation (SES influences human development) and social selection (individual characteristics affect SES).

As part of the developmental cascade proposed by the IMSI, the findings from this investigation show that Generation 1 (G1) adolescent problem behavior predicted later G1 SES, family stress, and parental emotional investments, as well as the next generation of children’s problem behavior. These results are consistent with a social selection view. Consistent with the social causation perspective, researchers found a significant relation between G1 SES and family stress, and in turn, family stress predicted Generation 2 (G2) problem behavior.

Finally, G1 adult SES predicted both material and emotional investments in the G2 child. In turn, emotional investments predicted G2 problem behavior, as did material investments. Some of the predicted pathways varied by G1 parent gender. The results are consistent with the view that processes of both social selection and social causation account for the association between SES and human development.