tions because they experience more negative life events and have fewer resources with which to cope with adverse life experiences (Kessler and Cleary, 1980; McLeod and Kessler, 1990). In addition, Kessler (1982) demonstrated that low levels of education, income, and occupational status each make independent contributions to the variation seen in maternal psychological distress. While all socioeconomic dimensions may play a role, most developmental research has emphasized the effects of economic hardship on parents' mental health (McLoyd, 1997).
The connection between economic hardship and mental health is important because, as discussed in Chapter 9, poor mental health is related to harsh, inconsistent, and detached parenting. Research in this field has emphasized the associations among economic decline, economic strain, parental psychological well-being, and children's outcomes (e.g., McLoyd, 1997). For example, in the case of depression, mothers' responses to the needs of their children tend to be less consistent and positive. Consequently, research on low-income families has explored whether depressive parenting patterns, or elements of these patterns, account for the relationship between economic hardship and children's maladjustment. These associations are often dependent on the age and gender of the children and, as with each aspect of socioeconomic status, they account for only part of the association between poverty and child well-being (McLeod and Shanahan, 1993; Watson et al., 1996).
The work of Elder and colleagues (Elder, 1979; Elder et al., 1984, 1985) on children of the Great Depression found strong associations among economic hardship, parental psychological well-being, and children 's well-being in intact families. Fathers who experienced job loss and economic deprivation were more distressed psychologically and prone to explosive, rejecting, and punitive parenting. Preschool-age children in these families, especially boys, were more likely to exhibit problem behaviors, while adolescent girls were more likely to have lower feelings of self-adequacy and to be less goal-oriented. Adolescent boys fared better than either adolescent girls or younger children. Elder and colleagues (1985) speculated that the gender and age differences reflected different experiences in families during the deprived times. During this time of economic hardship, adolescent boys sought economic opportunities outside the home, which reduced the time they spent with their families, gave them a useful role to play, and may have reduced the amount of negative family interactions they experienced. Younger children and adolescent girls did not have the same access to buffers provided by extrafamilial activities.
In more recent applications of Elder's framework, similar processes have been found to operate in Midwestern farm families experiencing economic decline (Conger et al., 1992, 1994) and single-parent black families that experience chronic economic strain (McLoyd et al., 1994). These