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12-03-2020 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 5/2020

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 5/2020

The Negative Impact of Economic Hardship on Adolescent Academic Engagement: An Examination Parental Investment and Family Stress Processes

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 5/2020
Leslie Gordon Simons, Megan E. Steele
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Academic success is a strong predictor of adolescent adjustment and subsequent adult social, psychological, and economic well-being. Importantly, research has established a negative relationship between family economic hardship and children’s educational outcomes. Despite being disproportionately represented among the most financially disadvantaged, African Americans remain an understudied group. The current study utilizes a longitudinal study design and prospective data from the Family and Community Health Study (n = 422, 52% girls, average age = 10.5 years at Wave 1), an African American sample, to investigate the impact of economic hardship on adolescent academic engagement by testing explanations offered by two commonly employed perspectives: the parental investment model and family stress model. While both models yielded significant results when tested separately, only the processes specified by the family stress model remained significant in a combined model, demonstrating that it is the superior explanation. By addressing many of the deficits of past research on the parental investment model and family stress model, the study was able to shed new light on the specific pathways by which economic disadvantage exerts an effect on youth outcomes. In doing so, the results question whether potentially middle-class, Eurocentric models (e.g., the parental investment model) are applicable when studying economically distressed African American youth.

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