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Evaluation of the interactionist model of socioeconomic status and problem behavior: A developmental cascade across generations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 June 2010

Monica J. Martin*
University of California, Davis
Rand D. Conger
University of California, Davis
Thomas J. Schofield
University of California, Davis
Shannon J. Dogan
University of California Cooperative Extension
Keith F. Widaman
University of California, Davis
M. Brent Donnellan
Michigan State University
Tricia K. Neppl
Iowa State University
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Monica J. Martin, Family Research Group, Department of Human & Community Development, University of California, Davis, 202 Cousteau Place, Suite 100, Davis, CA 95616; E-mail:


The current multigenerational study evaluates the utility of the interactionist model of socioeconomic influence on human development (IMSI) in explaining problem behaviors across generations. The IMSI proposes that the association between socioeconomic status (SES) and human development involves a dynamic interplay that includes both social causation (SES influences human development) and social selection (individual characteristics affect SES). As part of the developmental cascade proposed by the IMSI, the findings from this investigation showed that Generation 1 (G1) adolescent problem behavior predicted later G1 SES, family stress, and parental emotional investments, as well as the next generation of children's problem behavior. These results are consistent with a social selection view. Consistent with the social causation perspective, we found a significant relation between G1 SES and family stress, and in turn, family stress predicted Generation 2 (G2) problem behavior. Finally, G1 adult SES predicted both material and emotional investments in the G2 child. In turn, emotional investments predicted G2 problem behavior, as did material investments. Some of the predicted pathways varied by G1 parent gender. The results are consistent with the view that processes of both social selection and social causation account for the association between SES and human development.

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