This essay sresses that the primary purpose of this study was to identify the parenting practices that mediate relations between persistent, recent, and transitional poverty and the externalizing and internalizing behaviors of 0- to eight-year-old children. Poverty was hypothesized to influence children's externalizing and internalizing behaviors indirectly by affecting maternal emotional unresponsiveness, use of physical discipline, fewer stimulating experiences, and a lower-quality home physical environment. With the exception of the effects of poverty transitions, poverty estimates generally cross-validate.
This report makes a conclusion that negative relations between poor social class transitions and fewer stimulating experiences, lower-quality home physical environment, and children's externalizing and internalizing behaviors were unexpected. A possible explanation for these findings is that parents use financial resources in periods of relative economic prosperity to enhance the quality of the physical environment and ease economic hardship during years of poverty. This interpretation is consistent with Garrett, Ng'andu, and Ferron's NLSY study, which found that increases in family income had the strongest effect of any predictor on subsequent total HOME scores for children who were born poor. The large increase in the total effects of persistent poverty on both outcomes when the poverty transition variable was placed in the model suggests that the effects of poverty could well be much greater in the absence of periods of relative economic well-being.