Contextual Stress in Structurally Marginalized Neighborhoods: How Adverse Experiences in Adolescence and Protective Factors Across Developmental Periods Contribute to Future Fathering

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Simmons, Sydney, Clinical Psychology - School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
Tolan, Patrick, ED-EDHS, University of Virginia

Youth who grow up in structurally marginalized neighborhoods are disproportionately likely to be exposed to contextual stressors across their development assuming they remain in those neighborhoods over time. While there has been study of how individual- and family-level stressors in childhood or adolescence impact future parenting, attention to the conditions of and stressors associated with structurally marginalized neighborhoods has not been incorporated into much of the research in this area. Further, most research on parenting continues to center mothers rather than fathers. The present study sought to understand the relation between three contextual stressors, exposure to community violence, economic hardship, and racial discrimination, experienced during the critical developmental period of adolescence, and psychological distress and parenting practices in adulthood within a sample of fathers. Additionally, this study investigated whether access to healthy or supportive relationships across development served as protective or promotive factors in the stress-parenting linkage. Data come from the Chicago Youth Development Study, a longitudinal examination of developmental risk among Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino males living in structurally marginalized neighborhoods in Chicago, Illinois. Analyses were run to examine 1) the direct effects of contextual stress on parenting practices; 2) the mediating role of psychological distress in the stress-parenting linkage; and 3) the moderating roles of positive parenting in adolescence, the coparenting relationship in adulthood, and social support in adulthood. Results found few significant bivariate correlations between key constructs of interest, and therefore, there was little evidence to support many of the study’s hypotheses. However, data suggested that most youth within this sample reported experiencing contextual stressors during adolescence. There was a high correlation between the extent to which youth experienced each of the contextual stressors measured and how chronic that exposure was over time, as well as a high level of overlap between exposure to community violence and experiences of racial discrimination. More self-reported psychological distress predicted less father involvement across multiple models. Future studies should continue to co-examine contextual stressors, psychological distress, and protective or promotive factors in the stress-parenting linkage to better understand the mechanisms associated with the intergenerational transmission of stress and point to systems-level interventions that address inequities and improve the developmental outcomes of both fathers and their children.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Fathering, Parenting, Structural marginalization, Risk factors, Protective factors, Neighborhoods, Community violence, Economic hardship, Racial discrimination
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