A Longitudinal Examination of the Family Stress Model of Economic Hardship in Seven Countries

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The Family Stress Model of Economic Hardship (FSM) posits that economic situations create differences in psychosocial outcomes for parents and developmental outcomes for their adolescent children. However, prior studies guided by the FSM have been mostly in high-income countries and have included only mother report or have not disaggregated mother and father report. Our focal research questions were whether the indirect effect of economic hardship on adolescent mental health was mediated by economic pressure, parental depression, dysfunctional dyadic coping, and parenting, and whether these relations differed by culture and mother versus father report. We conducted multiple group serial mediation path models using longitudinal data from adolescents ages 12–15 in 2008–2012 from 1,082 families in 10 cultural groups in seven countries (Colombia, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, the Philippines, Thailand, and the United States). Taken together, the indirect effect findings suggest partial support for the FSM in most cultural groups across study countries. We found associations among economic hardship, parental depression, parenting, and adolescent internalizing and externalizing. Findings support polices and interventions aimed at disrupting each path in the model to mitigate the effects of economic hardship on parental depression, harsh parenting, and adolescents’ externalizing and internalizing problems.