Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Education

First Advisor

Paul A. McDermott

Abstract

Family environments can be characterized by their protective factors, risk factors, or both. Environments categorized as supportive and warm, where children are provided with resources such as a stimulating home environment, mother with a college degree, financial stability, and two-parent families afford children with many protective factors and have been shown to provide children with an opportunity for better academic and social-emotional outcomes. Whereas environments traditionally considered disadvantaged (e.g., parental mental health problems, low socioeconomic status, low parent education, high parental disagreement), where the presence of risk factors outweigh that of protective factors, evidence lower academic and social-emotional outcomes in children. Due to the multifaceted nature of families, it is most likely the case that families evidence both protective and risk factors at the same time. Developing patterns of protective and risk factors within families is useful as it provides a picture of how these important variables work together to relate to child cognitive and social-emotional outcomes. It is within this framework that the current study was undertaken using data from the Child Development Supplement (CDS) of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). The primary aims of the current study were to explore the structural and psychometric integrity of measures included in the CDS (insofar as this is an important precursor to using these measures in additional analyses) and to uncover the existence of clusters of patterns of family context and their relationship with child cognitive and social-emotional outcomes. Several reliable measures of family variables and child behavioral outcomes were uncovered and Multistage Euclidean Grouping (i.e., cluster analysis) revealed the existence of five distinct and meaningful clusters of family context. Furthermore, membership in these clusters was shown to be related to child social-emotional and cognitive outcomes.

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