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02-09-2017 | Original Paper | Uitgave 1/2018

Journal of Child and Family Studies 1/2018

Social Support, Economic Hardship and Psychological Distress in Spanish and Portuguese At-Risk Families

Tijdschrift:
Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 1/2018
Auteurs:
Lara Ayala-Nunes, Lucía Jiménez, Saul Jesus, Victoria Hidalgo

Abstract

Individuals with low socioeconomic status generally have worse mental health outcomes than their wealthier counterparts; a tendency that is exacerbated during financial crises. However, social support might buffer the effects of stress on mental health. In this study, we tested whether social support mitigated the effects of economic hardship on psychological distress on an at-risk sample from two of the European countries most affected by the 2008 economic downturn: Spain and Portugal. Participants were 249 caregivers enrolled in Child Welfare Services (73.0% women). Results showed that economic hardship and a negative indicator of social support (network dysfunctionality) were significant predictors of belonging to the psychological distress clinical group (OR: 2.35 and 1.80, respectively). However, no significant interaction effects were observed, thereby refuting the buffering effect hypothesis. When we conducted an in depth analysis of the clinical group, a significant moderation effect emerged. Our results suggest that, for at-risk populations, the detrimental effects of dysfunctional networks on mental health can outweigh the benefits of positive assistance and that social support is a potential stress buffer only for individuals in the clinical spectrum. These findings indicate that the protective effect of social support during circumstances of intense economic adversity is limited.

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