Socioeconomic Status, Parenting, and Child Development

By Marc H. Bornstein; Robert H. Bradley | Go to book overview

10
What Are SES Effects
Effects of?: A
Developmental Systems
Perspective
Richard M. Lerner
Tufts University

INTRODUCTION

As well documented by the scholarship included in this volume, human developmentalists have a long and rich research tradition of studying associations among socioeconomic status (SES), family structure and function, and child development (for example, see Bornstein, 1995a, 2002; Bronfenbrenner & Crouter, 1983; Fisher, Jackson, & Villarruel, 1998). Despite the voluminous studies of these associations, a—if not the—key theoretical question remains moot. “That is, through what causal mechanism does the set of variables marked by the term socioeconomic status influence parenting and its linkage to child development?” “In other words, by what mechanisms do macro contextual variables represented by SES translate into a developmental process that results in the behaviors of parents or children, or in ontogenetic changes in parent-child relations?”

Several theoretical models of developmental process have been used to provide answers to this question (Lerner, 2002). Across the history of this work, these models have been associated traditionally with ideas that stress the prime influence of variables at one level of organization on the links among SES, family (or parents), and children, and have resulted in the formulation of either sociogenic,

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