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Associations among stress and language and socioemotional development in a low-income sample

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 March 2022

Sonya V. Troller-Renfree
Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
Emma R. Hart
Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
Jessica F. Sperber
Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
Nathan A. Fox
University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA
Kimberly G. Noble*
Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
Corresponding author: Kimberly G. Noble, email:


Stress has been linked with children’s socioemotional problems and lower language scores, particularly among children raised in socioeconomically disadvantaged circumstances. Much of the work examining the relations among stress, language, and socioemotional functioning have relied on assessments of a single dimension of maternal stress. However, stress can stem from different sources, and people may appraise stressors differently. Taking a dimensional approach, this manuscript characterizes stress in multiple ways: as an overall composite; across the constructs of psychological appraisal vs. environmental stressors; and the independent contributions of a variety assessments. Data are from 548 mother–infant dyads (M = 13.14 months, SD = 2.11) who served as the control group for a poverty reduction clinical trial. Mothers completed questionnaires regarding the different types of stresses they may have experienced, as well as their children’s language and socioemotional development. Results indicate that, collectively, higher maternal report of stress is associated with lower reports of children’s socioemotional and language development. In addition, maternal psychological appraisals of stress were associated with both socioemotional and language development, whereas reports of environmental stressors were only associated with socioemotional development. Together, these findings suggest that maternal reports of stress are associated with lower maternal report of child development among low-income children.

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© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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