Abstract: Racial Disparities in the Accumulation of Parental Adversity and Their Proximal Effects on Early Socio-Emotional Health (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

215P Racial Disparities in the Accumulation of Parental Adversity and Their Proximal Effects on Early Socio-Emotional Health

Friday, January 18, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Sharon Borja, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Houston, Downtown, Houston, TX
Background and Purpose: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) pose significant jeopardy of poor early life outcomes with lasting consequences that could span a life course. Exposures to adversity often take place within the context of the family where the biological and social interdependence of parents and children occur immediately upon birth. ACE research has demonstrated the enduring influence of adversity where greater adversity is linked with more negative adult outcomes. Even with the rapid advancement of ACE research, relatively less known are the intergenerational links between parental adversity (PA) and early socio-emotional health (SEH); and the racial variations in these exposures. The preponderance of evidence is also retrospective and mostly based on single generation cross-sectional data. This study aims to fill these gaps by using longitudinal, multi-wave data to examine hypothesized association between and childhood SEH at age 1 and age 5 including racial/ethnic group differences between Latinos, African-Americans, and whites.

Methods: Descriptive and multivariate regression analyses were conducted using baseline, Wave 1, and Wave 5 data of the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study (N=4,898) with nationally representative sample of African-American and Latino mothers and their children in U.S. urban cities. Age 1 SEH was measured using the Emotionality, Activity, and Sociability temperament survey for children (Mathiesen & Tambs, 1999). Age 5 SEH was measured by a 19-item subset of items from the Child Behavior Checklist. PA includes family instability, material, housing, food, and financial insecurity, incarceration, intimate partner violence, mental health and overall health challenges.

Results: Results showed an increasing pattern of PA accumulation over time, with African-American mothers accumulating more PA (8.49) followed by Latino mothers (8.13) at year 1. By year 5, African-American mothers continued to accumulate more PA than their Latino and white counterparts. Results partially supported the hypothesized racial/ethnic differences in childhood SEH. African-American and Latino children exhibited worse SEH compared to white children. However, these differences were no longer detectable by age 5. Results confirmed the hypothesized association between PA and SEH. However, effects of PA were strongest for whites (beta = .19; p<.01) followed by African-Americans (beta = .16; p<.01) and Latinos (beta = .09; p<.01) respectively.

Conclusion and Implications: Results presented here expands our understanding of the context within which children grow and develop, and the central role of parents in their children’s accumulation of ACEs. They also underscore important racial variations in this context between families of color and their white counterparts. Findings suggest continued accumulation of PA by mothers from the birth of their child to age 5 pointing to the increasing exposure of their children to adversities in early childhood. Results also provide powerful evidence for the early detection PA’s effects on childhood SEH outcomes as early as age one. These findings have implications for preventive interventions towards the reduction of childhood exposures to ACEs, which by default should target the reduction of parental adversities. Next tasks should include further research regarding protective factors that could account for the weaker effect of PA on SEH for African-Americans and Latinos.