Method: Using data from the 6th wave of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing (FFCW) study, we examined direct and indirect relationships between neighborhood social capital, interpersonal social capital, parenting stress, and maternal-child engagement behaviors among an analytic sample of 1137 African American and 416 Latinx Mothers of adolescents. Independent Variables: Neighborhood social capital was assessed by 4 items on a 4-point scale measuring perceptions of supportive neighborhoods (e.g. this is a close-knit neighborhood). Interpersonal social capital was assessed by 5 binary (yes/no) items (e.g. knowing someone who could loan $200). Mediating Variable: Parenting stress was assessed by 4 items (4-point scale) rating mothers’ parenting strain (e.g. Being a parent is harder than I thought it would be). Dependent Variable: parental engagement was assessed by 5 binary items that assessed mothers’ engagement with youth (e.g. Talked about youth's day with youth in past month). Covariates: we controlled for maternal anxiety and depression, youth’s gender, economic hardships, and number of children in the household, and parent nativity. Separate structural equation models were run for both groups of mothers to explore the unique interplay of these variables relative to the mothers’ racial/ethnic group.
Results. Model fit indices for both the Latinx mothers and African American mothers SEMs demonstrated acceptable fit (χ2df= 230= 420.717 [p<.001], RMSEA= 0.045 [CI: 0.038 0.051], CFI= 0.937, TLI= 0.928, SRMR= 0.087, and χ2df= 213= 696.649 [p<.001], RMSEA= 0.045 [CI: 0.041-0.048], CFI= 0.948, TLI= 0.941, SRMR= 0.077, respectively). Among Latinx single mothers, higher levels of interpersonal social capital were associated with lower parenting stress, which was also associated with higher levels of parental engagement. Neighborhood social cohesion was only positively correlated with social capital. Among African American single mothers, higher levels of both interpersonal and neighborhood social capital were directly associated with parenting engagement, and indirectly associated lower parenting stress (though only neighborhood social capital directly associated with parental engagement).
Discussion. Among single African American and Latinx Mothers of youth, social capital was associated with lower levels of parenting stress, which subsequently associated with higher levels of parental engagement. It is notable that the type of social capital (e.g. interpersonal, community) demonstrated unique relationships between groups. Community and interpersonal social capital are important assets that should be considered when developing policy and intervention efforts that aim to promote well-being and positive family environments among diverse groups of single mothers.