Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Focusing on Family: Parent-Child Relationships and School Readiness among Economically Impoverished Black Children

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Focusing on Family: Parent-Child Relationships and School Readiness among Economically Impoverished Black Children

Article excerpt

As a result of financial strain, low-income families often face challenges in the areas of parental stress (McConnell, Breitkreuz, & Savage, 2011) and the quality of parent-child interactions (Lempers & Clark-Lempers, 1997), which can be overwhelming for many parents and their children. Accordingly, low-income children's academic and behavioral performance has been linked to both parental stress and subsequent parent-child relationships (Clark-Lempers, Lempers, & Netusil, 1990). But while early academic parenting behaviors are critical in determining academic readiness for Black and low-income families (Hill, 2001), less is known about how family determinants such as the parent-child relationship may help to explain the link between financial stressors and children's school readiness. Furthermore, despite an earlier body of work, little progress has been made in the past several decades to examine parent-child relationships in Black families generally, not to mention economically impoverished Black families.

This study examines financial strain, general strain, parent-child relationships, and child school readiness (e.g., academic, psychosocial, and socioemotional indicators) among impoverished Black families. Although Black families may have varying degrees of control over the societal factors associated with financial and daily hassles in their lives, the less-understood aspects of the home environment-in particular, the relationship between parent and child-can shed light on ways that families can contribute to their children's readiness for school.

ECONOMIC POVERTY AND BLACK CHILDREN'S DEVELOPMENT

There is a large body of work that links socioeconomic status to child outcomes (e.g., Bradley & Corwyn, 2002). In particular, living in poverty or with low levels of family income has been associated with a number of negative outcomes for children (Pinderhughes et al., 2001). The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines poverty as "the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions" (from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/poverty). In 2015, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (U.S. DHHS) set the threshold of poverty for a family of two adults and two children at an annual income of less than $24,250 ("Federal poverty level: Definition, guidelines, chart," 2015). Low-income families, furthermore, are those who earn 100% to200% of the poverty threshold, or up to $48,500 for a family of four in 2015 (National Center for Children in Poverty; NCCP, 2012). Children comprise 44% of the low-income and 34% of the impoverished population in the United States (U.S.) despite comprising only 25% of the total population (NCCP, 2012). In particular, children six years of age and under may be especially vulnerable, with almost one-half living in low-income families and one-quarter living in impoverished families (NCCP, 2012: Although there are distinctions between the terms poverty and low-income within the literature, the NCCP illuminates the vast underestimation of poverty based on today's standards, therefore, the term "poverty" in this article may include references to those who are 0-200% of the federal poverty threshold, that is, impoverished and low-income). The effects of poverty are evident in early indicators of children's school readiness (e.g., preschool vocabulary; Duncan, Ludwig, & Magnuson, 2007), often leading to greater disparities in developmental outcomes and trajectories over time. The deleterious effects of poverty on young children have been reflected in academic (Joe & Davis, 2009), psychosocial (Evans & English, 2002) and socioemotional (Bierman et al., 2010) outcomes.

Furthermore, rates of American poverty often vary with race. The percentage of Black families in poverty has climbed as they experienced the effects of the recent economic downturn disproportionately (e.g., greater unemployment). Black children are also more likely to live in poverty than their non-Black peers, with 39% of all Black children living in poverty compared to 34% of Latino or 14% of Asian and White children respectively (U. …

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