This proposal seeks funding for five years to investigate variations in rural family resilience to economic stress. Because of economic conditions approximating those of the 1930s in rural America, rural families are experiencing substantially increased risk for health and behavioral problems that are known to be associated with economic hardship. Less well understood are the mechanisms with families or the characteristics of individual family members that either exacerbate or protect against such risks. To increase understanding of the processes involved, the proposed study will seek to replicate and extend Elder's findings on protective and risk factors in Depression-era families experiencing economic loss. Using a sample of 500 two-parent, rural families with a 7th grade adolescent in the home, the 3- wave, prospective panel study (yearly measurements) will assess the direct impact of economic stress on the quality and stability of family relationships and on the emotional, physical, and behavioral problems of individual family members. The status of family and individual characteristics early in the stress process are expected to condition (mediate or moderate) the eventual influence of economic hardship on individual and family health status and development. Risk factors such as prior emotional instability, marital distress, parent-child conflict, and conduct problems of adolescents are expected to exacerbate the negative influence of economic stress and to increase the likelihood of long-term impairments for families and individuals. Characteristics such as self-esteem, personal resilience, use of specific coping strategies, family problem-solving skills and support and social supports from outside the home are expected to minimize the negative impacts of economic loss. Structural equation models (LISREL), where appropriate, will be used to determine the relationships between constructs across three waves of data collection. In addition to their scientific significance, the findings will be valuable to human service professionals working with rural and other stressed families.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Mental Health Behavioral Sciences Research Review Committee (BSR)
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Iowa State University
Other Domestic Higher Education
United States
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