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How Does Parental Stress Affect Child Outcomes?

Natasha Cabrera has completed a paper on “Parenting and early predictors of Latino children’s cognitive and social development: Direct and Indirect Effects”

The project examined the association between parents’ depressive symptoms and contextual sources of stress (couple conflict, parent education, and levels of acculturation) at 9 months and parenting and children’s outcomes at 24 months. It also examined the mediational effect of parenting behaviors and couple conflict on children’s outcomes at 24 months of age. The study sample consisted of 500 Latino toddlers and their biological mothers and fathers who participated in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort. SEM findings revealed that fathers with high depressive symptoms were less engaged with their children and reported more couple conflict, but these effects were small and not found for mothers. Levels of acculturation as measured in this study and ethnicity were not significantly related to parenting or children’s outcomes. Parents’ education was the most important predictor of mother supportiveness, which was, in turn, also strongly linked to children’s social behaviors. The most important predictor of father involvement at 24 months was his involvement early during infancy. Although the effect was small, it had a significant effect on children’s cognitive scores at 24 months. Thus the most important pathway from early predictors to toddlers’ cognitive outcomes was father involvement during infancy, because it led to more involvement during toddlerhood. The most important pathway for social behaviors was parents’ education because it leads to more mother supportiveness at 24 months.