Method: Using data from the 6th wave of the Fragile Families and Child Well-being study (FFCW), we analyzed relationships between parenting stress, parent-child relationships, parental-monitoring and adolescent psychological functioning among a subset of 3086 mothers and their adolescent children. The sample was divided into a high economic hardship and low economic hardships group based on the median of economic hardships reported by mothers. Using structural equation modeling(SEM), separate indirect effect analyses examined whether parental monitoring and parent-child relationship quality explained the relationship between parenting stress and 5 domains (Engagement Perseverance Optimism Connectedness and Happiness) of Positive Adolescent Functioning EPOCH scale for the high and low economic hardship groups.
Results: All measurement and SEM models yielded acceptable model fit (RMSEA<0.05, CFI & TLI > .95). Among the low economic hardship group, parenting stress and each domain of the EPOCH was partially mediated by parent-child relationship quality. With the exception of adolescent engagement, higher levels of parenting stress was associated with lower levels of parent-child relationship quality while higher levels of parent-child relationship quality was associated with higher levels of each EPOCH domain. Higher levels of parenting stress correlated with higher levels of adolescent engagement. Parental monitoring linked to each EPOCH domain, with the exception of adolescent connectedness. There were no significant relationships between parenting stress and parental monitoring. Among the high economic hardship group, parent-child relationship quality fully mediated the relationship between parenting stress and each domain of the EPOCH except for engagement in which there was no relationship between parenting stress nor parent-child relationship quality. In each of the analyses, higher levels of parenting stress associated with lower levels of parental monitoring and parent-child relationship quality.
Discussion/conclusions: As proposed by the FSM, we found that parenting stress compromised parent-child relationship quality. However, unlike the low economic hardship group, parenting stress appeared to have a more detrimental relationship with parental monitoring among the high economic hardship group. This finding is consistent with the FSM in that greater economic hardships have a greater toll on parenting behaviors and engagement, which then leads to adverse outcomes for children and adolescents. Findings suggest that parenting behaviors such as monitoring are particularly vulnerable among parents with higher economic hardship, thus social work researchers, practitioners and policy makers should develop or tailor interventions and policies to better support families who face these hardships.