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01-11-2014 | Original Paper | Uitgave 8/2014

Journal of Child and Family Studies 8/2014

The Role of Stress Exposure and Family Functioning in Internalizing Outcomes of Urban Families

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 8/2014
Ashli J. Sheidow, David B. Henry, Patrick H. Tolan, Martha K. Strachan


Although research suggests that stress exposure and family functioning are associated with internalizing problems in adolescents and caregivers, surprisingly few studies have investigated the mechanisms that underlie this association. To determine whether family functioning buffers the development of internalizing problems in stress-exposed families, we assessed the relation between stress exposure, family functioning, and internalizing symptoms among a large sample of inner-city male youth and their caregivers living in poverty across five waves of data collection. We hypothesized that stress exposure and family functioning would predict development of subsequent youth and caregiver internalizing problems and that family functioning would moderate this relation, with higher functioning families demonstrating greater resiliency to stress exposure. We used a longitudinal, prospective design to evaluate whether family functioning (assessed at waves one through four) activated or buffered the effects of stress exposure (assessed at wave one) on subsequent internalizing symptoms (assessed at waves four and five). Stress from Developmental Transitions and family functioning were significant predictors of depressive symptoms and anxiety in youth; however, family functioning did not moderate the relation. Family functioning mediated the relation between stress from Daily Hassles and internalizing outcomes suggesting that poor parenting practices, low structure, and low emotional cohesion activate depression and anxiety in youth exposed to chronic and frequent everyday stressors. Surprisingly, only family functioning predicted depressive symptoms in caregivers. Results validate the use of a comprehensive, multi-informant assessment of stress when investigating internalizing outcomes in youth and support using family-based interventions in the treatment and prevention of internalizing.

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