, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 519-541

Pathways of Economic Influence on Adolescent Adjustment

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An important part of a science aimed at the prevention of human dysfunction involves the development of empirically based models that identify processes of risk for or protection from emotional distress or behavioral problems over time. The present study developed and evaluated such a model that proposed two pathways through which family economic pressure was expected to influence change in adolescent internalizing symptoms (depression and anxiety) during the period from the eighth to the tenth grades. A total of 377 rural families in a midwestern state provided data for the analyses. The results were generally consistent with the conceptual model in that family economic pressure increased adolescent perceptions of family economic hardship, which, in turn, reduced the adolescent's sense of control or mastery over time. Lowered mastery was associated with increases in emotional distress. Also consistent with the model, prior levels of mastery appeared to reduce the magnitude of economic stress experienced by the adolescent, whereas prior emotional distress intensified the economic stress process. Although gender differences were found in these processes, the overall pattern of results suggests that girls and boys are both at risk for internalizing problems when families experience economic pressure. Implicatios of the findings for the dvelopment of effective preventive interventions with financially stressed families in rural areas are discussed.