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Indirect effects, via parental factors, of income harshness and unpredictability on kindergarteners’ socioemotional functioning

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 March 2022

Zhi Li*
School of Psychological and Cognitive Sciences and Beijing Key Laboratory of Behavior and Mental Health, Peking University, Beijing, China
Jay Belsky
Department of Human Ecology, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA, United States
Corresponding author: Zhi Li, email:


Drawing on data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (n = 10,700), we evaluate indirect effects − via parent negative psychology and harsh-inconsistent parenting − of income harshness, unpredictability, and their interaction on kindergarteners’ socioemotional development. Income harshness is operationalized as the typical level of family income-to-needs across four repeated measurements from 9 months to kindergarten and unpredictability as random variation across the same repeated measurements. Results indicate that the effects of greater income harshness and the harshness-X-unpredictability interaction (reflecting more predictable income harshness) on more “problematic” child behavior operated via both parent negative psychology (i.e., greater psychological stress) and harsh-inconsistent parenting. Results underscore the utility of simultaneously investigating effects of income harshness and unpredictability, as well as their interaction and mechanisms of influence.

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

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