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An understanding of child psychopathology and resilience requires attention to the nested and interconnected systems and contexts that shape children’s experiences and health outcomes. In this study, we draw on data from the National Survey of Children’s Health, 2016 to 2021 (n = 182,375 children, ages 3– to 17 years) to examine associations between community social capital and neighborhood resources and children’s internalizing and externalizing problems, and whether these associations were moderated by experiences of racial discrimination. Study outcomes were caregiver-report of current internalizing and externalizing problems. Using logistic regression models adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics of the child and household, higher levels of community social capital were associated with a lower risk of children’s depression, anxiety, and behaviors. Notably, we observed similar associations between neighborhood resources and child mental health for depression only. In models stratified by the child’s experience of racial/ethnic discrimination, the protective benefits of community social capital were specific to those children who did not experience racial discrimination. Our results illustrate heterogeneous associations between community social capital and children’s mental health that differ based on interpersonal experiences of racial/ethnic discrimination, illustrating the importance of a multilevel framework to promote child wellbeing.
Bereaved youth are at greater risk for adverse mental health outcomes, yet less is known about how social context shapes health for bereaved children. Ecosocial theory is employed to conceptualize bereavement in the context of sociodemographic factors.
This longitudinal study used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Of the 15,454 pregnancies enrolled, 5050 youth were still enrolled at age 16.5 and completed self-report questionnaires on life events and emotional/behavioral symptoms.
Sociodemographic precursors associated with parent, sibling, or close friend bereavement included maternal smoking, parental education levels, and financial difficulties. The significant yet small main effect of higher cognitive ability, assessed at age 8, on reduced emotional/behavioral symptoms at age 16.5 (β = −0.01, SE = 0.00, p < 0.001) did not interact with bereavement. Bereavement of a parent, sibling, or close friend was associated with a 0.19 point higher emotional/behavioral symptom log score compared to non-bereaved youth (95% CI: 0.10–0.28), across emotional, conduct, and hyperactivity subscales.
Descriptive findings suggest sociodemographic precursors are associated with bereavement. While there was an association between the bereavement of a parent, sibling, or close friend and elevated emotional/behavioral symptoms, cognitive ability did not moderate that effect.
The health status of children in the United States varies by racial and ethnic, shaped by an interrelated set of systems that disadvantage children of color in the United States. In this article, we argue for a broad view of resilience, in both research and policy, that views resilience not just as a property of individuals but also as a characteristic of social contexts and policies. Accordingly, we describe the empirical evidence for policies and contexts as factors that can improve health among children and families that are deprived of equal opportunities and resources due to structural racism. We discuss the evidence and opportunities for policies and interventions across a variety of societal systems, including programs to promote economic and food security, early education, health care, and the neighborhood and community context. Based on this evidence and other research on racism and resilience, we conclude by outlining some directions for future research.
Early adversity has been shown to sensitize individuals to the effects of later stress and enhance risk of psychopathology. Using a longitudinal randomized trial of foster care as an alternative to institutional care, we extend the stress sensitization hypothesis to examine whether early institutional rearing sensitizes individuals to stressful events in adolescence engendering chronic low-grade inflammation. At baseline, institutionalized children in Romania (ages 6–31 months) were randomly assigned to foster care or to remain in usual care within institutions. A group of never-institutionalized children was recruited as an in-country comparison sample. At ages 12 and 16, participants reported stressful events. At age 16, Interleukin-6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP) were derived from blood spots. Among children assigned to care as usual, more stressful events at age 12, but not age 16, were associated with higher IL-6. In the same group, stressful events at age 16 were associated with higher CRP, though these effects attenuated after adjusting for covariates. These associations were not observed in the foster care or never-institutionalized groups. The findings suggest that heightened inflammation following stress exposure is one pathway through which early neglect could compromise physical health. In contrast, early family care might buffer against these risks.
Although childhood adversity is a potent determinant of psychopathology, relatively little is known about how the characteristics of adversity exposure, including its developmental timing or duration, influence subsequent mental health outcomes. This study compared three models from life course theory (recency, accumulation, sensitive period) to determine which one(s) best explained this relationship.
Prospective data came from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (n = 7476). Four adversities commonly linked to psychopathology (caregiver physical/emotional abuse; sexual/physical abuse; financial stress; parent legal problems) were measured repeatedly from birth to age 8. Using a statistical modeling approach grounded in least angle regression, we determined the theoretical model(s) explaining the most variability (r2) in psychopathology symptoms measured at age 8 using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and evaluated the magnitude of each association.
Recency was the best fitting theoretical model for the effect of physical/sexual abuse (girls r2 = 2.35%; boys r2 = 1.68%). Both recency (girls r2 = 1.55%) and accumulation (boys r2 = 1.71%) were the best fitting models for caregiver physical/emotional abuse. Sensitive period models were chosen alone (parent legal problems in boys r2 = 0.29%) and with accumulation (financial stress in girls r2 = 3.08%) more rarely. Substantial effect sizes were observed (standardized mean differences = 0.22–1.18).
Child psychopathology symptoms are primarily explained by recency and accumulation models. Evidence for sensitive periods did not emerge strongly in these data. These findings underscore the need to measure the characteristics of adversity, which can aid in understanding disease mechanisms and determining how best to reduce the consequences of exposure to adversity.
Despite the widespread assumption that racial differences in stress exist and that stress is a key mediator linking racial status to poor health, relatively few studies have explicitly examined this premise. We examine the distribution of stress across racial groups and the role of stress vulnerability and exposure in explaining racial differences in health in a community sample of Black, Hispanic, and White adults, employing a modeling strategy that accounts for the correlation between types of stressors and the accumulation of stressors in the prediction of health outcomes. We find significant racial differences in overall and cumulative exposure to eight stress domains. Blacks exhibit a higher prevalence and greater clustering of high stress scores than Whites. American-born Hispanics show prevalence rates and patterns of accumulation of stressors comparable to Blacks, while foreign-born Hispanics have stress profiles similar to Whites. Multiple stressors correlate with poor physical and mental health, with financial and relationship stressors exhibiting the largest and most consistent effects. Though we find no support for the stress-vulnerability hypothesis, the stress-exposure hypothesis does account for some racial health disparities. We discuss implications for future research and policy.
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