A Longitudinal Examination of the Adaptation to Poverty-Related Stress Model: Predicting Child and Adolescent Adjustment Over Time

Martha E. Wadsworth, Laura Rindlaub, Eliana Hurwich-Reiss, Shauna Rienks, Hannah Bianco, Howard J. Markman

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This study tests key tenets of the Adaptation to Poverty-related Stress Model. This model (Wadsworth, Raviv, Santiago, & Etter, 2011) builds on Conger and Elder's family stress model by proposing that primary control coping and secondary control coping can help reduce the negative effects of economic strain on parental behaviors central to the family stress model, namely, parental depressive symptoms and parent-child interactions, which together can decrease child internalizing and externalizing problems. Two hundred seventy-five coparenting couples with children between the ages of 1 and 18 participated in an evaluation of a brief family strengthening intervention, aimed at preventing economic strain's negative cascade of influence on parents, and ultimately their children. The longitudinal path model, analyzed at the couple dyad level with mothers and fathers nested within couple, showed very good fit, and was not moderated by child gender or ethnicity. Analyses revealed direct positive effects of primary control coping and secondary control coping on mothers' and fathers' depressive symptoms. Decreased economic strain predicted more positive father-child interactions, whereas increased secondary control coping predicted less negative mother-child interactions. Positive parent-child interactions, along with decreased parent depression and economic strain, predicted child internalizing and externalizing over the course of 18 months. Multiple-group models analyzed separately by parent gender revealed, however, that child age moderated father effects. Findings provide support for the adaptation to poverty-related stress model and suggest that prevention and clinical interventions for families affected by poverty-related stress may be strengthened by including modules that address economic strain and efficacious strategies for coping with strain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)713-725
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2013


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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