Research Paper Katherine Conger Rand Conger

Intergenerational Transmission of Adaptive Functioning: A Test of the Interactionist Model of SES and Human Development
Thomas J. Schofield, Monica J. Martin, Katherine J. Conger (Affiliate in Psychology), Tricia M. Neppl, M. Brent Donnellan and Rand D. Conger (Affiliate in Psychology)

After decades of studying dysfunction and maladjustment, social and behavioral scientists have begun to recognize the importance of environmental⁄ contextual and dispositional factors that promote or facilitate healthy development. Researchers consider the interface between socioeconomic status (SES) and markers of healthy functioning across multiple generations of family members, focusing on positive development in order to offer alternative pathways for interventions and programs focused on promotion of resilience under stressful conditions.


The interactionist model (IM) of human development (R. D. Conger & M. B. Donellan, 2007) 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). Using a multigenerational data set involving 271 families, the current study finds empirical support for the IM. Adolescent personality characteristics indicative of social competence, goal-setting, hard work, and emotional stability predicted later SES, parenting, and family characteristics that were related to the positive development of a third-generation child. Processes of both social selection and social causation appear to account for the association between SES and dimensions of human development indicative of healthy functioning across multiple generations.