Path Analysis of Economic Deprivation On Child Development in Korea: Focusing On Income, Asset, and Material Hardship
Poverty has negative effects on child’s cognitive and emotional development especially through family dysfunction and parental stress according to the family stress model. In Korea’s case, the recent surge of household debts increased the financial stress of many households, bringing more detrimental effects on child development. However, while research on poverty and child development has proliferated, most of them failed to capture the diverse aspects of economic deprivation that may influence the developmental outcomes of children. Thus, this study aimed to focus on such measures of economic deprivation rather than one-dimensional income-based poverty and attempted to examine the direct and indirect influences of economic deprivation on child development through family conflict and maternal depression based on the family stress model.
The sample consisted of 675 children aged 10 to 12 and their mothers from the 2006 Korean Welfare Panel Study (KWPS). Economic deprivation was constructed with income poverty, material hardship, and asset poverty. Income poverty was assessed using the continuous measure of income-to-needs ratio and material hardship was constructed by eight dummy items (skipped meals, unable to pay rent, unable to pay utility bills, utilities shut off, unable to pay children’s tuitions, unable to heat in winter, unable to receive medical services, had credit problems). Asset poverty was measured by whether or not households had sufficient net assets to sustain above the poverty threshold for three months. Family conflict (five items) and maternal depression (CESD-11) were included as mediators. Child development outcomes were assessed with four measures; 1) internalizing and 2) externalizing problem behaviors (K-CBCL), 3) self-reported grades in English, Math, and Korean, and 4) self-rated health. Child’s age, gender, birth order, family type, and mother’s education were controlled in the model. The analysis was based on Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) to capture the complexity of pathways.
7.4% of children were living under the poverty threshold income and 13.8% of the sample experienced asset poverty. The confirmatory factor analysis indicated that all factor loadings on latent constructs were validated. The satisfactory final model fit supported the hypothesized family stress model (Chi-Square= 332.65, df=101, P<.001; IFI=.920, CFI=.917, RMSEA=.058). The impact of economic deprivation on internalizing and externalizing problem behaviors was fully mediated by family conflict and maternal depression. Specifically, the influence of family conflict on internalizing problem behaviors was mediated by maternal depression while family conflict was directly associated with externalizing problem behaviors. The influence of economic deprivation on a child’s health was fully mediated by family conflict and maternal depression. Moreover, there was a significant direct path was found between economic deprivation and a child’s grade.
The result indicated that economic deprivation constructed with family income, assets and material hardship captured the diverse aspects of poverty. In addition, economic deprivation influenced child’s behavior problems and health mediating through maternal depression and family conflict, which supports the family stress model. The findings suggest that the negative effects of economic deprivation on child development can be mitigated by addressing issues of family conflict and maternal depression in Korea.