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Economic hardship in the family of origin and children's psychological well-Being in adulthood


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    Department of Sociology, 211 Oswald Tower, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802.

Department of Sociology, 749 Flanner Hall, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556 (


Past research consistently indicates that poverty and economic hardship have negative consequences for children. Few studies, however, have examined whether these consequences persist into adulthood. This study addresses this gap by assessing whether economic resources in the family of origin have long-term effects on psychological well-being in adulthood. Specifically, we test two processes—one involving interpersonal processes in the family of origin, and the other involving children's socioeconomic attainment—that may help to explain the link between early economic factors and later well-being. Using 17-year longitudinal data from two generations (N= 589), we find evidence that economic hardship in the family of origin predicts later adult well-being through the parents’ marital relationship, the parent-teen relationship, children's educational attainment, and children's earned income. Supplementary analyses suggest that economic hardship is particularly problematic when it is of long duration or when it occurs during adolescence.