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Comparable “risks” at the socioeconomic status extremes: Preadolescents' perceptions of parenting



This study was focused on contextual variations in the parenting dimensions salient for preadolescent adjustment. The sample consisted of 614 sixth graders from two communities, one low and the other high income. Parenting dimensions included those known to be significant in each socioeconomic context: isolation from parents (emotional and physical), and parents' emphasis on achievements (overall expectations and emphasis on integrity over success). Adjustment outcomes included subjective well-being as well as school competence. Contradicting stereotypes, results showed that on average, very affluent children can perceive their parents as emotionally and physically unavailable to the same degree that youth in serious poverty do. The ramifications for adjustment also seem to be largely similar: Closeness to parents was beneficial for all, just as criticism was deleterious. Even after considering the quality of parent–child relationships, parents' physical absence (e.g., at dinner) connoted vulnerability for distress and for poor school performance in both groups. The connotations of a few parenting dimensions varied by context and gender; these variations are discussed as are overall implications for future research and practice.Preparation of the manuscript was funded in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health (RO1-DA10726, RO1-DA11498, R01-DA14385), the William T. Grant Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation.


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Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Suniya S. Luthar, Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, Teachers College, Columbia University, Box 133, 525 West 120th Street, New York, NY 10027-6696; E-mail:


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