Poverty and involuntary engagement stress responses: Examining the link to anxiety and aggression within low-income families

Brian C. Wolff, Catherine DeCarlo Santiago, Martha Ellen Wadsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations


Families living with the burdens of poverty-related stress are at risk for developing a range of psychopathology. The present study examines the year-long prospective relationships among poverty-related stress, involuntary engagement stress response (IESR) levels, and anxiety symptoms and aggression in an ethnically diverse sample of 98 families (300 individual family members) living at or below 150% of the US federal poverty line. Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) moderator model analyses provided strong evidence that IESR levels moderated the influence of poverty-related stress on anxiety symptoms and provided mixed evidence for the same interaction effect on aggression. Higher IESR levels, a proxy for physiological stress reactivity, worsened the impact of stress on symptoms. Understanding how poverty-related stress and involuntary stress responses affect psychological functioning has implications for efforts to prevent or reduce psychopathology, particularly anxiety, among individuals and families living in poverty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)309-325
Number of pages17
JournalAnxiety, Stress and Coping
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2009


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine(all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology

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