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The Diverging Trajectories of Child Externalizing Behavior by Family Economic Status at Birth: The Mediating Role of Neighborhood

Kim, Soobin (2024) The Diverging Trajectories of Child Externalizing Behavior by Family Economic Status at Birth: The Mediating Role of Neighborhood. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Over recent decades, the United States has witnessed a concerning rise in economic inequality, posing challenges in mitigating the disparities that emerge during childhood. With a focus on understanding the processes and consequences of inequality, this dissertation examines how children’s economic status at birth and residential environment interplay in shaping their trajectories of externalizing behavior. Externalizing behavior (i.e., aggressive, impulsive, and harmful behaviors) are associated with adverse outcomes, such as reduced social skills, academic achievement, and future socioeconomic status.

Grounded in the ecological systems theory and the cumulative dis/advantage theory, this study examines three hypotheses: (1) A child born into poverty will have a more adverse trajectory of behavior problems than a child not born into poverty; (2) Compared to a child not born into poverty, a child born into poverty will live in a neighborhood with a higher poverty level as they get older; (3) For a child born into poverty in comparison to a child not born into poverty, higher poverty level of their neighborhood will result in more externalizing behavior problems.

The first hypothesis was partially rejected as I found higher levels of externalizing behavior at ages 3 and 15 among children born into poverty, with no significant differences at ages 5 and 9. The second hypothesis was supported, with children born into poverty consistently residing in neighborhoods with higher poverty levels across all time points. The third hypothesis was contradicted, as children not born into poverty displayed greater vulnerability to the impact of high neighborhood poverty on externalizing behavior. This effect was particularly evident at age 3.

This study highlights the persistent challenges faced by children born into poverty, underscoring the importance of social work practice and policy interventions to support these marginalized children. Recommendations include expanding Head Start programs and school-level interventions, particularly during early childhood and adolescence. Moreover, comprehensive policy measures are needed to facilitate children's transition out of high-poverty neighborhoods and to eliminate economic segregation. Ultimately, a holistic approach integrating family support and neighborhood interventions is essential to promote healthy development for all children, regardless of their economic status at birth.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Kim, Soobinsok55@pitt.edusok550000-0002-8575-1844
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairEngel, Rafaelrengel@pitt.edurengel
Committee MemberGoodkind, Sarasara.goodkind@pitt.edusag51
Committee MemberShook, Jeffreyjes98@pitt.edujes98
Committee MemberLinardi, Seralinardi@pitt.edulinardi
Date: 25 April 2024
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 17 April 2024
Approval Date: 25 April 2024
Submission Date: 28 March 2024
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 126
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Social Work > Social Work
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Economic inequality, Externalizing behavior, Panel data analysis
Date Deposited: 25 Apr 2024 14:07
Last Modified: 25 Apr 2024 14:07


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