Support from Spouse as Mediator and Moderator of the Disruptive Influence of Economic Strain on Parenting


  • This research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (MH43270), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA05347), the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health (MCJ-109572), and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Journal Paper No. 4–0707 of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station, Ames, IA. Project No. 2931.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Ronald L. Simons, Department of Sociology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011.


A model is presented regarding associations between economic strain, support from spouse, and quality of parenting. The model was tested using a sample of 451 2-parent families, each of which included a seventh grader (age 12–13). Parent and adolescent reports, as well as observational ratings, were used as indicators of constructs. Analysis using structural equation modeling procedures indicated that level of spouse support was positively related to supportive parenting, whereas economic strain operated to undermine parental involvement. As posited, economic strain produced its effect through a direct relation with parenting and indirectly through its association with spouse support. These findings held for mothers and fathers, regardless of the gender of the child. Spouse support moderated the impact of economic strain on supportive parenting for mothers but not fathers. Possible explanations for this gender difference are presented.