An indirect effects model of the association between poverty and child functioning: The role of children's poverty-related stress

Martha Ellen Wadsworth, Tali Raviv, Christine Reinhard, Brian Wolff, Catherine DeCarlo Santiago, Lindsey Einhorn

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The authors tested a theoretical model positing that poverty has an indirect effect on child and adolescent functioning through children's poverty-related stress. Path analyses with a multiethnic sample of 164 children aged 6 to 18 revealed that the stress associated with poverty, such as economic strain, family conflict, violence/trauma, and discrimination, is an important component of the experience of poverty for children. Poverty-related stress was associated with a wide range of correlates, including internalizing and externalizing syndromes, DSM-IV diagnostic symptoms, physical health, and deviant behavior such as pregnancy, legal problems, substance abuse, and school dropout. Most models fit equally well for adolescents and preadolescents, suggesting that poverty is stressful for children as young as 6. African American children's functioning was less strongly associated with poverty-related stress than was the functioning of Hispanic and Caucasian children. Implications of poverty-related stress as a potential mechanism of poverty's pernicious effect on child functioning are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)156-185
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Loss and Trauma
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2008


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Social Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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