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Family and Consumer Sciences

College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources

LIFE - Children, Youth and Families at risk

Research Review

The relationship of individual and family factors to the psychological well-being of junior high school students living in urban poverty

De Haan, L.G. & MacDermid, S. (1998). The relationship of individual and family factors to the psychological well-being of junior high school students living in urban poverty. Adolescence, 33(129), 73-90.

PURPOSE: Examined the effects of individual factors, specifically identity development, as well as family factors on the psychological adjustment of adolescents living in urban poverty.


  • Garbarino, Kostelny, & Dubrow (1991) found that increased gang violence, lack of basic health care, inadequate food, inferior schooling, and social isolation make urban poverty stressful. They also found that the formation of a strong ideological identity is a effective buffer against extreme stress.
  • Sum & Fong (1991) found that despite risk 65% of adolescents are able to make the transition to adulthood and improve their economic circustances.
  • Erickson (1963) considers identity formation to be key in adolescent psychosocial development.
  • Elder, Liker, & Cross (1984); Elder, Nhuyen, & Caspi (1985); Lempers, Clark-Lempers, & Simons (1989) concluded that poverty is linked to poor adolescent adjustment, however the effects were usually indirect.


  • Sample: 46 male and 57 female 8th grade students from two middle schools.
  • Instruments: Economic hardship and perceptions of parental treatment were assessed with scales modified by Lemper, Clark-Lempers, and Simons (1989). Respondents also completed six identify fidelity scales and the Rosenberg Self-esteem scale. Nine items from the Center for Epidemiolic Studies Depression Scale measured levels of depression and ten items from Asher, Hymel, & Renshaw’s (1984) 14-item scale assessed feelings of social dissatisfaction and personal perceptions of peer status.
  • Procedure: One-way analysis of variance, higher-order factor analysis, and path analysis conducted using structural equation modeling (Byrne, 1994) were used to evaluate the data.


  • Economic hardship was not directly related to the psychological factor, but was indirectly related with psychological well-being. Hardship was negatively associated with identity development, and identity development was positively associated with positive psychological adjustment. Indicated an indirect relationship between economic hardship and psychological well-being, mediated by identity development.
  • Identity development did serve as a protective factor between poverty and adjustment.
  • Perceived parental treatment was not related to economic hardship, but was clearly related to psychological adjustment and well-being.
  • Eighth-grade students who showed higher levels of identity development in this study were more likely to report higher self-esteem and lower levels of depression and loneliness.
  • For students in the study, the experience of poverty was not as important to adjustment as the way in which the experience influenced their identity development.

Prepared by Kosha Sabin for UW honors course HP4152, Spring 1999

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