A Test of the Economic Strain Model on Adolescents' Prosocial Behaviors


  • We thank the Family Studies Center, the School of Family Life, and the College of Family Home and Social Science at Brigham Young University, and we recognize the generous contribution of the many private donors who provided support for this project. We also thank those families who were willing to spend valuable hours with our team in interviews, and the many students who assisted in conducting the interviews.

  • Funding for the project was provided by a grant from the National Science Foundation to Gustavo Carlo (BNS 0132302).

Requests for reprints should be sent to Gustavo Carlo, 320 Burnett Hall, Department of Psychology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68588. E-mail: gcarlo1@unl.edu


The present study was designed to examine the links between economic strain, parental depression, parent–child connectedness, and adolescents' prosocial behaviors. The sample consisted of 478 participants (M age at Time 1=11.29 years, 51% male) recruited from the community who were mostly of European American descent (69%) and from mostly middle to upper SES families. At Time 1 parents completed measures of their own income and economic stress, depression, and connectedness with their child. At Time 1 adolescents reported on connectedness with both their mother and father. At Time 2 (1 year later) adolescents reported on their own prosocial behavior toward strangers, friends, and family. Structural equation model tests showed that economic strain was related positively to parental depressive symptoms, which in turn predicted lower levels of parent–child connectedness, which in turn positively predicted adolescents' prosocial behaviors. Discussion focuses on the family context of adolescents' positive behavioral outcomes.