Differential Risk Factors Associated with the Onset of Externalizing Behaviors among Youth within Two Impoverished, Urban Communities
Geetha Gopalan, MSW, Columbia University, Mary Acri Cavaleri, PhD, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, William M. Bannon, PhD, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and Mary M. McKay, Mount Sinai.
Purpose: Multiple parent and family-level variables have been associated with conduct disorder among youth, including residence in high-risk, low-income urban environments. However, little investigation has been done to compare whether different parent and family-level processes are associated with conduct disorder among families residing in two such high-risk communities. Accordingly, this study examines the risk factors associated with externalizing behavior symptoms among youth living in two low-income urban communities. Methods: The current study is a secondary analysis of baseline data gathered from caregivers of 154 African American youth between the ages of nine and eleven who participated in the Collaborative HIV-Prevention and Adolescent Mental Health Project (CHAMP) family program. CHAMP is a family-based HIV preventive and mental health promoting intervention designed to reduce risk-taking activity among youth residing in two inner-city communities in New York and Chicago. The main variables under investigation were: demographic characteristics including age, gender, parental marital status, parental employment and educational status, family income, number of children in the home, and seeking counseling for parent and child; parent mental health symptoms; discipline effectiveness; parental monitoring; degree of within family support; degree of parent social support; and frequency of parenting hassles. To determine the relationship between these variables and youth externalizing mental health symptoms, bivariate and multiple regression analyses were performed on the total sample (n=154), and separately for subjects in New York (n = 46) and Chicago (n = 108). Results: Bivariate analyses of the entire sample revealed that a large number of children in the home and frequency of parenting hassles were positively and significantly (p < .05) associated with youth externalizing symptoms. However, separate analyses of both city samples revealed greater amounts of within family support were significantly associated with increased youth externalizing symptoms among families residing in New York, while the presence of greater parental mental health symptoms, reduced discipline effectiveness, reduced parental monitoring, and seeking counseling for youth were associated with greater youth externalizing symptoms among families in Chicago. Multiple regression analyses revealed that Chicago youth were significantly more likely than youth in New York to manifest increased levels of externalizing symptoms (ß = 3.16). Controlling for city, child age, and gender, multiple regression analyses with the total sample revealed that parent mental health symptoms (ß = .12), frequency of parenting hassles (ß = .16), and number of children in the home (ß = 2.93) were positively and significantly associated with increasing youth externalizing behavior symptoms. Separate multiple regression analyses of each city sample revealed that no individual variables were significantly associated with youth externalizing behavior among families in New York. However, among Chicago families, greater levels of parent mental health symptoms (ß = .17) and discipline ineffectiveness (ß = 1.23) were significantly associated with greater youth externalizing symptoms. Conclusions: Within two inner-city, impoverished communities, different parent and family-level variables were associated with youth externalizing behavior. Understanding which parent and family-level processes are associated with youth externalizing behaviors across two high-risk, low-income urban environments is important for tailoring services to unique community needs.