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Socioeconomic Status and Child Mental Health: The Role of Parental Emotional Well-Being and Parenting Practices

Abstract

This study examined the role of parental emotional well-being and parenting practices as mediators of the association between familial socioeconomic status (SES) and child mental health problems. The sample included 2,043 5th-7th graders (50.7 % female) participating in the second wave of the Bergen Child Study. Children completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, parents reported family economy and education level, emotional well-being (measured with the Everyday Feelings Questionnaire), and the use of negative disciplinary and affirmative parenting practices (measured using the Family Life Questionnaire). Path analyses were conducted to examine the associations between SES and externalizing and internalizing problems. Results supported a model where family economy was associated with externalizing problems through parental emotional well-being and parenting practices, whereas maternal education level was associated with externalizing problems through negative discipline. The direct association between paternal education level and externalizing problems was not mediated by parenting. For internalizing problems, we found both direct associations with family economy and indirect associations with family economy through parental emotional well-being and parenting. The results suggest that parental emotional well-being and parenting practices are two potential mechanisms through which low socioeconomic status is associated with child mental health problems.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to the children and parents participating in the study. The authors are also grateful to two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Tormod Bøe.

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Bøe, T., Sivertsen, B., Heiervang, E. et al. Socioeconomic Status and Child Mental Health: The Role of Parental Emotional Well-Being and Parenting Practices. J Abnorm Child Psychol 42, 705–715 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-013-9818-9

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Keywords

  • Bergen child study
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Internalizing and externalizing problems
  • Family process