The Impact of Poverty and Discrimination on Family Interactions and Problem Development

  • Jean K. L. Lee
  • Anthony BiglanEmail author
  • Christine Cody


Extensive research has explored the relationship between family interactions and problem development in youth. When families are living in poverty and facing discrimination at work, in schools, and in society in general, it exacerbates the difficulties in these families. Problem behaviors include antisocial behavior, substance use, high-risk sexual behavior, dropping out of school, depression, and suicide, among others. Problem behaviors are often interrelated and occur concurrently, resulting in a high burden of cost to society.

The impact of coercive interactions, positive reinforcement, monitoring, and limit setting in family interactions can lead children on a trajectory of success or to the development of multiple problem behaviors. Poverty and discrimination harm a significant proportion of families in the US. Poverty is a risk factor for physical, psychological, and behavioral problems. However, effective parenting interventions can mediate the influence poverty has on family interactions, positive support, monitoring, and limit setting. A growing body of evidence shows that parenting interventions can also reduce the impact of discrimination on youth.

The implication of these findings indicates that we can improve the quality of parenting and prevent the development of current and future problem behaviors. Doing so calls for reviews of policies relevant to family economic security to reduce family poverty and better understand the strategies for reducing discrimination. It will take cooperation among policymakers, educators, neighborhoods, scientists, and families themselves to bring about the necessary changes. We have a unique role to play in educating policymakers, advocating programs, and creating positive change for the well-being of our society.


Poverty Discrimination Families Antisocial behavior Parenting 



The authors declare that they have no disclosure.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean K. L. Lee
    • 1
  • Anthony Biglan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christine Cody
    • 1
  1. 1.Oregon Research InstituteEugeneUSA

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