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Socioeconomic Risks at Birth and Adolescents’ Problem Behaviors: Moderating Effects of Child Protective Services

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

Individuals’ contextual risks in early childhood, especially socioeconomic risks, are known to have long-term influences on youth adjustment, including increased internalizing/externalizing problems in adolescence directly or indirectly by increased parental stress and the possibility of maltreatment (Miller & Votruba-Drzal, 2017). While the involvement in Child Protective Services (CPS) can be an intervention to reduce risks for further maltreatment, little is known about how such intervention by the CPS serves to reduce long-term negative effects of early risks on later youth adjustment. The study aimed to examine whether socioeconomic risks at birth would lead to internalizing/externalizing problems at age 15 directly and indirectly via harsh parenting at age 5, and whether the CPS involvement during preschool age would moderate potential effects of socioeconomic risks on youth problem behaviors.
We used a subsample of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N=2,763), a longitudinal birth cohort study of children born between 1998 and 2000 in the U.S. We divided the sample into two groups; those who had contact with CPS between ages 0–5 and those who did not. For socioeconomic risks at birth, five indicators from the baseline survey were assigned values of 1 or 0 and then summed (mothers aged under 19, ethnic minority, and non-married, and had less than high school education and lower than median household income). The adolescents self-reported internalizing problems with 8 items (anxious, depressed behaviors, withdrawn) and externalizing problems with 20 items (aggressive, rule-breaking behaviors) from the YSR at the year 15 assessment. Primary caregivers reported harsh parenting including physical assault, psychological aggression and neglect at the year 5 assessment, using 15 items from the CTSPC. Children’s sex and the type of primary caregivers (biological mothers vs. others) at age 5 were used as control variables. The hypothesized models were examined using path analysis and multi-group analysis in Mplus 8 (Muthén & Muthén, 1998-2017).
The model fit the data well (Figure 1). Although mean values of harsh parenting at age 5 and externalizing/internalizing problems at age 15 were higher among those with a history of CPS involvement than those without such history, only those without CPS involvement showed socioeconomic risks at birth directly influenced increased externalizing problems at age 15 and indirectly influenced increased internalizing/externalizing problems mediated through increased harsh parenting at age 5, whereas none of these direct and indirect effects were significant for those with a history of CPS involvement.
The results indicated the early CPS involvement may help reduce the negative effects of socioeconomic risks at birth on later problem behaviors. This may be due to the fact that many families with the CPS involvement had experienced official actions, such as case monitoring, court involvement, or children being placed out of home, and thus the CPS contacts may have monitoring effects on caregivers and serve as social supports for the children's development. Further implications of having involved in the CPS for youth’s adjustment and individual variability due to specific reasons of CPS involvement and types of the interventions will be discussed.


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