Positive Parenting Moderates the Effect of Socioeconomic Status on Executive Functioning: A Three-Generation Approach



While low parental socioeconomic status (SES) has been associated with lower levels of child executive functioning (EF), few have examined the intergenerational effect of SES on child EF across three generations. We adopt a resilience framework to investigate positive parenting as a protective factor in the intergenerational effect of low SES on child EF.


In a sample of 50 parents (70% female) and their oldest child (56% female, Mage = 12.38) from the Flint Adolescent Study, we estimated the effect of grandparent SES on child EF (i.e., Animal Sorting, Inhibition, Inhibition Switching) and examined the protective role of positive parenting using a multivariate regression model.


Lower levels of grandparent SES was associated with lower levels of cognitive flexibility (i.e., Animal Sorting), but not inhibition (i.e., Inhibition, Inhibition Switching), at low levels of positive parenting.


These findings indicate the varied ways by which intergenerational SES may shape child EF. Further, positive parenting may offset the intergenerational influence of SES on child EF outcomes.

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Author Contributions

DBL designed and executed the study, conducted the data analyses, and wrote the initial draft of the manuscript. SA, ALM, and HFH collaborated with the design of the study and writing of subsequent drafts of the manuscript. JH and MAZ collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript. All authors approved the manuscript as submitted.


This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) (5R01DA035811-05) for the fourth (H.F.H.) and last author (M.A.Z.).

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Correspondence to Daniel B. Lee.

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Lee, D.B., Assari, S., Miller, A.L. et al. Positive Parenting Moderates the Effect of Socioeconomic Status on Executive Functioning: A Three-Generation Approach. J Child Fam Stud 28, 1878–1885 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-019-01411-x

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  • Intergenerational
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Executive functioning
  • Parenting