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The Consequences of Financial Stress for Individuals, Families, and Society

Authors:
The Consequences of Financial Stress for
Individuals, Families, and Society
Christopher G. Davis, Ph.D., and Janet Mantler, Ph.D.
Centre for Research on Stress, Coping, and Well-being
Department of Psychology
Carleton University
March 31, 2004
This report was commissioned by, and remains the property of, Doyle Salewski Inc.
For further information, please contact:
Brian P. Doyle, President, B.Sc, MBA CA*CIRP, CFE
or Paul E. Salewski, Senior Vice-President, BA, CA*CIRP, CFE
Doyle Salewski Inc.,
396 Bank Street, Ottawa, ON, K2P 1Y5
613-569-4444
or the report authors:
Christopher Davis, Ph.D., Associate Professor
Janet Mantler, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
Centre for Research on Stress, Coping, and Well-being
Department of Psychology
Carleton University,
1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON, K1S 5B6
613-520-2600 X2251; cdavis@ccs.carleton.ca
613-520-2600 X4173; jmantler@ccs.carleton.ca.
ii
Table of Contents
Foreword …………………………………………………………………….. iii
Executive Summary ………………………………………………………… v
I Introduction ………………………………………………………………….. 1
What is Stress? ………………………………………………………….. 2
What is Financial Stress? ………………………………………………. 4
A Word about Bankruptcy ………………………………………………. 6
Overview of Literature Review …………………………………………. 8
II The Effect of Financial Stress on Men and Women ……………………. 9
Financial Stress and the Marriage Relationship ……………………... 14
Financial Stress and Parenting ………………………………………… 16
III Effects on Children …………………………………………………………. 18
IV Cost to Society …………………………………………………………….. 22
V Summary and Conclusions ……………………………………………….. 23
References …………………………………………………………………. 28
iii
Foreword
Twenty-seven years ago, I entered into the financial restructuring profession.
University educated and trained as a Chartered Accountant with one of the
worlds leading professional firms. Back then, I approached each client, whether
an individual or corporation, with only cold calculating numbers, assessing their
financial circumstances and the legal and financial consequences.
As my career progressed, I became increasingly aware of the more personal
circumstances of the individuals I was advising and counselling. I observed that
many were under substantial personal stress which filtered throughout the family.
From time to time I would learn of an extreme situation wherein an unfortunate
debtor resorted to suicide. I also learned of cases where people despaired
because they believed there was no hope. These were the most difficult and
included many younger adults with onerous student loans.
Since 1977 bankruptcy filings in Canada have swelled. In 2003, over 100,000
individuals have filed for bankruptcy or made a proposal to deal with their
financial crisis. As the vast majority of these are acting on their situations as a
last and final resort, I extrapolate that there are many more hundreds of
thousands of Canadians that bear significant financial pressure and consequently
suffer the effects of that stress.
Doyle Salewski has grown to believe that financial stress is an understated factor
in our homes and our communities. The media speaks regularly about obesity or
environmental pollution and the resulting health and financial effects and burdens
upon individuals and communities; but, few pause to consider the depression,
anxiety and other emotional burdens that individuals and families are carrying
iv
which cripple their performance and limit their opportunities due to financial
stress.
In an effort to explore this phenomena, Doyle Salewski Inc. has commissioned
the Centre for Stress, Coping, and Well-being of Carleton University to provide
an exploratory report on this subject. Its findings reveal the significant harm done
to individuals and families and the undetermined costs to our communities from
excessive financial stress. However, despite the damage, our researchers
suggest that once the stress is reduced or removed, that long term ill effects may
be negated.
Doyle Salewski is in the business of promoting prudent, personal and corporate
financial management and providing solutions to assist people and corporations
who find themselves in financial difficulty.
My partner, Paul Salewski, and I are pleased and proud to have commissioned
Carleton University and, in particular, Drs. Davis and Mantler in this initial project.
Doyle Salewski will utilize the study to improve upon the quality and style of
services which we are delivering to our clients.
We wish to thank Carleton University and Drs. Davis and Mantler and their
associates for preparing and delivering this report and sharing our substantial
concerns in this relatively unresearched area.
Brian P. Doyle, CA•CIRP
Doyle Salewski Inc.
President March 31, 2004
v
Executive Summary
In this report we summarize what is known about the effects of economic
hardship and financial stress based on research in the psychological literature,
particularly as it relates to bankruptcy.
More Canadian families may be living near the financial breaking point than at
any time since the Great Depression. In 2003, there were more than 84,000
consumer bankruptcies in Canada, and an additional 18,000 consumer proposals
filed to help people deal with their financial situation. If it is true that most people
who seek bankruptcy protection do so as a last resort, after living in debt crisis
for years on end, then these Canadians represent only a small proportion of
Canadian families who are living under considerable financial stress.
Given the frequency with which bankruptcy occurs, it is surprising that almost no
research has been conducted on the social and psychological effects of
bankruptcy. Instead, in order to understand some of the possible consequences
of bankruptcy, we draw on research on the effects of financial stress, often as a
result of job loss or unemployment.
Financial stress is the subjective, unpleasant feeling that one is unable to meet
financial demands, afford the necessities of life, and have sufficient funds to
make ends meet (e.g., have to reduce standard of living). It is the perception of
the financial situation that is implicated in the negative outcomes we describe in
this report.
The most consistent finding of the research is that financial stress is associated
with lowered self-esteem, an increasingly pessimistic outlook on life, and reduced
mental health, particularly an increase in depression and hostility. There is also a
link between financial stress and suicide and alcohol consumption, likely as a
result of the increased level of depression. Financial stress is also associated
with declining physical health such as an increase in headaches, stomachaches,
vi
and insomnia. Again, it is likely that people with a great deal of financial stress
experience high levels of depression and it is depression that is most directly
associated with worsening physical health.
As financial stress increases, so does the likelihood of marital discord and
breakup. As the financial pressure mounts, couples may become preoccupied
with financial issues, leading to anger, frustration, blame, and increasing
arguments - particularly over money. As individuals become more depressed,
they withdraw more from their spouse and offer less emotional support (e.g.,
expressing care and concern). As the cycle progresses, marital partners tend to
engage in undermining behaviour such as criticizing and insulting the other,
further reducing the satisfaction with the relationship. These effects tend to be
strongest for people with unstable relationships prior to the experience of
financial stress. Some research suggests that couples who have strong
relationships prior to the financial stress are less likely to experience a breakup
as a result.
Parents (especially fathers) who are experiencing financial stress are less
responsive to their children’s needs, less nurturing, less consistent in their
parenting, and more inconsistent in the discipline of their children. There is also
an increased potential for child abuse if financial stress is combined with
parenting stress and aggression between marital partners. Such parental
behaviours may increase the children’s risk of socioemotional problems (e.g., low
self-esteem, depression, impulsive behaviour), health problems, poor academic
performance, deviant behaviour, drug and alcohol use, withdrawal from social
relationships, and reduced aspirations and expectations. Children may become
depressed, adopt the pessimistic outlook of the parents who are undergoing
financial strain, and lose their sense of personal mastery. This can result in
children and adolescents setting lower expectations for their own careers.
Financial pressure is also related to increased conflict between parents and
vii
adolescents, particularly over the purchase of clothes, games, and lifestyle
options.
It is important to note that many of these effects on children are indirect. Children
appear to exhibit these problems to the extent that their parents are depressed
and become less nurturing in their parenting. This means that children will not be
at risk for these negative outcomes if parents are able to maintain positive,
nurturing parenting skills despite financial stress.
It is difficult to estimate the costs of financial stress, and bankruptcy in particular,
for the community and society in general. Bankrupt individuals in Canada were
absolved of debts of $2.7 billion last year (Office of Superintendent of
Bankruptcy, 2004), but this does not take into account the economic cost of
depression, family strife, or behaviour problems in children. It is important that
future research consider the indirect costs of adults experiencing such stress,
and future costs as children exposed to financial stress are affected in years to
come.
Many people believe that economic hardship is a private issue and they withdraw
from their social networks and volunteer activities, delaying the opportunity to
seek assistance and support, but this is not an effective strategy. Leisure
activities, like volunteer work and sports, are inexpensive ways to add interest
and meaning to life and they provide the possibility of gaining much needed
social support.
Other key buffers from the negative effects of financial stress appear to be
having a strong sense of personal mastery (i.e., a belief that one can manage
stressful situations) and a strong and supportive spousal relationship, through
which a couple feels capable of problem solving together. This suggests that
developing problem solving and financial management skills (to increase one’s
sense of mastery) will help to mitigate the stress, increase one’s self-esteem,
viii
strengthen the marital relationship, and buffer children from the negative
outcomes of parents experiencing financial stress. People may require
assistance in learning how to develop these skills.
Many of the studies indicated that the effects of financial stress are largely
indirect and attributable to depression. If depression is the lynchpin, then this
suggests that preventing or limiting the depression will reduce or eliminate the
effects of the stress on families. There is some suggestive evidence that as the
financial pressure is lifted (perhaps, in the case of bankruptcy, through
bankruptcy protection), some of the negative effects of stress disappear,
although more research on this issue is necessary.
Dealing with economic hardship and financial stress effectively may open a door
to outcomes that are positive. Economic hardship may result in positive changes
such as finding a new job or improving one's ability to manage personal finances.
1
I. Introduction
Stress is all around us. We experience stress at work, in traffic on the way home
from work, with our children and our partners, and at night when we try to sleep.
We worry about our health, our children, paying the bills, disappointing a loved
one, and whether we still have what it takes to get promoted or, sometimes,
merely to keep our job. Although most people think of stress as something
undesirable, this is not necessarily the case. We need at least a minimum
amount of stress in our lives to motivate us to action. Stress often leads to good
outcomes: we feel good about ourselves when we overcome obstacles, succeed
when the odds were against us, and solve problems that are nagging at us.
Stressful experiences can lead people to develop new skills, new insights, and
new ways of living their lives (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004).
A key stressor for many people is economic hardship. People with economic
hardship often worry about being unable to make ends meet, repossession and
foreclosure, and the shame of being unable to support their family. No doubt,
such stress is debilitating, and in this report we summarize the research evidence
for the effects of economic hardship and financial stress. It is important to note,
however, that economic hardship and financial stress may also open a door to
outcomes that are positive. Economic hardship may result in positive changes
such as finding a new job or improving one's ability to manage personal finances.
Our goal in this report is to review what is known in the psychological literature
about the effects of financial stress. We begin with a definition of stress, and an
introduction to a theoretical model of stress. It is in this context that we then
review what researchers have uncovered about the effect that financial stress
has on individuals, their families, and society at large.
2
What is Stress?
Stress is a particular unpleasant feeling that one experiences when one
perceives that something one values has been lost or is threatened. This loss or
threat could be something material (e.g., loss of one's house), social (e.g., a
relationship breakup), symbolic (e.g., threat to one's status as provider), or
economic (e.g., job insecurity). We feel stress when we believe that we do not
have what it takes (in terms of coping skills or resources) to face the perceived
threat or loss.
In addition to the unpleasant feeling, stress also includes a host of biochemical,
physiological, cognitive, and behavioural changes. Biochemical changes include
the secretion of catecholamines, epinephrine, norepinephine, glucocorticoids,
and cortisol. Physiological changes include increased blood pressure, heart rate,
and sweating. When stress is short term, these biochemical and physiological
responses are adaptive. However, when stress is chronic, these prolonged
responses can put one at increased risk for health problems including
cardiovascular disease, arthritis, hypertension, and reduced ability to fend off
viruses due to compromised immune functioning (Sapolsky, 1998). They can
also maintain (if not cause) major psychological disturbances including
depression and anxiety.
Our focus here will be on emotional, cognitive, and behavioural changes that
accompany stress because that has been the focus of the literature on financial
stress, but it should be noted that given what is known about the stress in
general, and chronic stress in particular, it is likely that financial stress also has
some of the physiological and neurochemical consequences noted above. To our
knowledge, however, direct evidence of such effects is not yet available.
Things that produce stress are termed stressors. A stressor could be something
that comes from the outside world (such as an economic downturn, a layoff
notice), or it could be something that is internal and not observable to the outside
3
world (e.g., a fear of failing). Stressors may be acute or chronic; they may be
predictable or unpredictable; and they may be controllable or uncontrollable. In
general, stressors that are perceived to be chronic, unpredictable, and
uncontrollable are more debilitating than are those that are perceived to be
acute, predictable, and controllable. Financial stress tends to be chronic, and
often perceived as uncontrollable. Often, the instigating event (e.g., job loss,
investment losses) is likewise unpredictable and unavoidable.1
It is important to note that what is stressful to one person may not be stressful to
another. What makes an event or situation stressful depends on the person's
interpretation. Two people with the same income and expenses will probably
react very differently to the same debt problem. One may perceive the debt
problem as a challenge and will mobilize her resources to deal with it (e.g., make
a plan to revise spending habits, seek other sources of income) whereas the
other may interpret the same situation as beyond her ability to manage. Given
the huge variation in how people interpret and respond to stress, it is impossible
to say with certainty what any one person will do when faced with a potential
stressor. We can say, however, what people tend to do when faced with that
stressor. The research described below is based on samples of people facing
varying degrees of financial stress. By looking for general patterns, we are able
to draw conclusions about common or typical reactions. In many cases, the
research indicates that people facing financial stress are at increased risk for
particular outcomes (e.g., behaviour problems in children). This does not mean
that if you are experiencing a great deal of financial stress that your children will
exhibit behaviour problems, or even that they probably will exhibit behaviour
problems; only that they are more likely than those who are not facing financial
stress to exhibit behaviour problems.
1 Despite the objective facts of a case which might indicate otherwise, many people who
are emotionally distressed will selectively interpret an unavoidable or unpredictable
negative event as avoidable and predictable, and will struggle with the idea that had they
only done X or Y, it might not have happened (see e.g., Davis et al., 1995, 1996).
4
What is Financial Stress?
We define financial stress as the unpleasant feeling that one is unable to meet
financial demands, afford the necessities of life, and have sufficient funds to
make ends meet. The feeling normally includes the emotions of dread, anxiety,
and fear, but may also include anger and frustration.
Whereas financial stress is a subjective feeling, which may or may not be based
on an objective assessment of one’s financial situation, we refer to the objective
circumstances that typically give rise to the feeling of financial stress as
economic hardship. Economic hardship may be due to such things as the loss of
a job, unexpected medical or legal expenses, chronic overspending, investment
losses, or gambling. The economic hardship may be acute or chronic, anticipated
or unanticipated, and it may be attributable to uncontrollable forces (such as the
regional economy) or controllable forces (e.g., poor financial management).
Economic hardship is often defined in terms of family income below the poverty
line (often taking into account family size), a decrease in family income of greater
than 35% from one year to the next, a high debt-to-asset ratio, or loss of job by
principal breadwinner. We note that none of these measures may be completely
satisfactory to an accountant or auditor, but we believe that they do capture
economic hardship in a general way. A precise analysis of one’s financial
situation is of less interest to psychologists than is one's perception of the
financial situation because it is this perception that produces the financial stress,
which in turn is implicated in a host of individual, familial, and social
consequences. If one fails to realize the dire predicament of one’s financial
situation, then one will not feel financial stress.
Most research on the effects of financial stress draws from samples facing a
particular type of economic hardship. For instance, some studies have been
published on the effect that the Great Depression had on families, others have
described the effect of mass job losses in company towns, and others have
5
described the effects of chronic poverty. One series of studies is based on
interviews conducted with people in rural Iowa (including farmers and other
community members) during the agricultural crisis in the late 1980s as interest
rates climbed and the value of their land plummeted by roughly 50%.
In contrast to their measure of economic hardship, financial pressure or financial
strain is frequently measured in terms of the degree to which research
participants report that they have had to postpone the purchase of household
necessities (e.g., health insurance, replace broken furniture or equipment), have
had to reduce their standard of living, borrow to pay monthly bills, and/or are
unable to pay their monthly bills. It is this measure of financial pressure that is
considered to be the main stressor with which people are coping. As Herzberg
(1990) stated, “… economic stresses are perceived as quickly and intensely as
having to pay the next bill.” In fact, among research studies assessing both
economic hardship and financial pressure, it is the financial pressure measure
that is most strongly linked to outcomes such as depression, marital problems,
and the like. Interestingly, the link between economic hardship and financial
pressure is not particularly strong: some people without economic hardship (as
defined by income or debt) do feel financial pressure (e.g., lack of cash flow), and
some with economic hardship do not feel much financial pressure (e.g., students
used to living on very little).
Even though our focus is on the effects of financial stress, it is important to note
that it is not possible to disentangle the effects of financial stress from other
stresses that accompany financial stress. For instance, research conducted in
the early 1930s in the United States and in Europe indicates that loss of one’s job
– even when it is due to international economics – precipitates a host of other
stressors. A study by Jahoda and colleagues (1933) of unemployment in a one-
company town in Austria documented that the unemployed decreased their
participation in clubs and volunteer activities (including use of the free library),
abandoned efforts to budget, increasingly quarreled with family members, and
6
lost self-esteem. In fact, many came to blame themselves for their situation. This
study and others suggest that those who lose their jobs not only lose income,
they also lose an integral source of life purpose, a central activity that structured
their day, and a network of coworkers who shared in a common goal. It is unclear
the extent to which these changes witnessed by Jahoda and her colleagues
could be attributable to the loss of income as opposed to the stress of losing
status as family provider, losing one’s occupational identity, losing a sense of
purpose, or shame.
A Word about Bankruptcy
According to the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy, there were more
than 78,000 consumer bankruptcies in Canada in 2002 (or 2.5 per 1,000 people),
and more than 84,000 consumer bankruptcies in Canada in 2003 (or 2.7 per
1,000 people). Over the past decade, the average number of consumer
bankruptcies has been roughly 75,000 per year. The trend over the past 35 years
has been a steady upward climb (see Figure 1). In addition to these consumer
bankruptcies, more than 18,000 people filed consumer proposals in 2003, an
increase of 7.2% from the year before, and an increase of 106% of the number of
proposals filed in 1998. A consumer proposal is an agreement with creditors to
accept less money than is owed to them paid back over a specified period of
time, as arranged by a Trustee in Bankruptcy, in order to avoid bankruptcy.
Given the frequency with which bankruptcy occurs, it is surprising that almost no
research has been conducted on the social and psychological effects of
bankruptcy. We suspect that the paucity of research on bankruptcy might be
owing to the difficulty in recruiting people who have gone through the process to
participate in research. Although thousands of individuals declare bankruptcy
every year, not many are keen to talk about it.
Instead, we have to draw on research on the effects of economic or financial
strain or stress, often as a result of job loss or unemployment. If one were to
7
assume that those who complete the process of filing for bankruptcy do so
because they perceive that they are at the high end of the financial stress
continuum, then one might reasonably conclude that at such a high point on the
financial stress continuum, the effects we refer to below are probably more
common or more severe than we report here. That is, one might assume that the
more extreme one's financial stress, the higher and more severe are the rates of
Figure 1
Source: Annual Statistical Summary of the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy
depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and relationship problems. There is some
mention in the unemployment literature that those who find new jobs recover
from many of the ill effects of financial stress (Kessler, Turner, & House, 1989),
suggesting perhaps that removal of the financial strain (in the case of bankruptcy,
through bankruptcy protection) may have a similar ameliorative effect, but the
empirical research has yet to be conducted.
Number of Consumer Bankruptcies in Canada
0
10000
20000
30000
40000
50000
60000
70000
80000
90000
1968
1970
1972
1974
1976
1978
1980
1982
1984
1986
1988
1990
1992
1994
1996
1998
2000
2002
Year
Number of Consumer Bankruptcies
8
Overview of Literature Review
Our review of the literature on the effects of financial stress follows a model
described by Conger and colleagues (1993a). Conger et al. propose a family
systems model that suggests that financial stress has direct effects on the
primary income earner, and then indirectly has an impact on the marital
relationship, which in turn has an effect on children. A simplified version of this
model is given schematically in Figure 2.
Figure 2: General Model of the Effect of Financial Stress on Families
The outcomes of financial stress noted in Figure 2 effectively compound the
original stress. For example, health problems and marital problems become new
stressors that further tax one's ability to cope with financial stress. A stressed
parent's response to his or her child's poor academic performance may increase
the conflict between child and parent. In this sense, the model is iterative and
cyclical.
In our review, we will first describe the effect that financial stress (or more
specifically, financial pressure or financial strain) has on men and women in
Financial
Pressure
Effect on
Individual
-depression
-hostility
-parenting
skills
-physical
health
-suicide
Effect on
Spouse
-depression
-hostility
-parenting
skills
-physical
health
Effect on
Marriage
-argue more
-increased risk
of divorce
Effect on
Children
-depression
-acting out
-school
performance
Economic
Hardship
9
terms of mental and physical health. We will then describe the effect that
financial stress has on the marital relationship, and then the effects that financial
stress has on adolescents and young children. Taking these direct effects into
account, we will then consider the effect of financial stress on society.
II. The Effect of Financial Stress on Men and Women.
One of the most consistent findings in the literature is that financial stress is
associated with a higher incidence of mental and physical health problems. This
point comes first from observational studies conducted in the 1930s (Jahoda,
1979), second from analysis of annual population data (e.g., Brenner, 1973), and
third from surveys of individuals going through financial stress (e.g., Price, Choi,
& Vinokur, 2002). Brenner (1973), for instance, analyzed data collected annually
by the State of New York between 1914 and 1967 and found a strong and
consistent correlation between economic indicators (e.g., manufacturing
employment index) and admissions (voluntary and involuntary) to state
psychiatric institutions, particularly for men. As the economy worsened,
admissions increased. Brenner also reported that as the economy soured,
incidence of suicide and alcoholism also increased significantly. In an updated
and expanded report to the US Congress Joint Economic Committee, Brenner
(1984, as cited in Herzberg, 1990) projected that a 10% decline in per capita
income would result in a 1% increase in total mortality, a 1.5% increase in
cardiovascular-related mortality, a 3.7% increase in suicides, and a 2.6%
increase in imprisonments. Based on US government data, Brenner
demonstrated that as the rate of unemployment increases, cigarette consumption
increases, as does the proportion of people living alone. As the rate of business
failures increase, so too does alcohol consumption.
Studies with Iowa farmers during the farm crisis of the 1980s found that suicide
was a real threat as farmers were about to lose their farms (Turkington, 1985).
By contrast, research with Canadian farmers (Pickett, Davidson, et al., 1993)
10
found no direct association between a reduction in financial status and increased
suicide rates. Hence, the connection between economic hardship and suicide is
relatively complicated (Wasserman, 1992). One’s social network and one’s
interpretation of the financial situation and the resulting emotional reactions likely
play important roles in preventing suicide.
Findings that financial strain is associated with poorer physical health and with
mortality have been reported in the United Kingdom. Moser and colleagues
(1984, 1990, as cited in Bartley, 1994) followed up on men who were
unemployed and seeking jobs in 1971. Ten years later, these men were 20%
more likely to be deceased as compared to employed men of the same age.
American studies also suggest that financial stress is linked with worse physical
health. For instance, Fox and Chancey (1998) analyzed the responses of 366
randomly selected adults from urban southeastern US and found that financial
stress was correlated negatively with perception of one’s health, self-esteem,
marriage satisfaction, and family functioning. They also found that as financial
stress increased, couples were more likely to fight, and were more likely to break
up. In their research, they assessed financial stress with measures of
employment instability, employment insecurity, low total yearly family income,
and difficulty living on the current family income.
Rantakeisu, Starrin, and Hagquist (1999), in their survey of 502 unemployed
young people (16 – 25 years) in Sweden, found that people who had a greater
degree of financial hardship were more likely to report headaches, stomach
aches, or insomnia daily or at least a few times a week. Moreover, the people
who were under greater financial strain reported that their health was
deteriorating at a faster rate than was the health of unemployed young people
under less financial strain. People in this study who experienced greater financial
stress tended to report lower levels of physical health.
11
Price, Choi, and Vinokur (2002), in a two-year longitudinal study2 of 756
American unemployed job seekers also found that financial strain resulted in a
decrease in ratings of physical health. Importantly, Price et al. (2002) found that
the effect of financial strain on health is mediated by one’s sense of personal
control and depression. That is, financial strain increased one’s risk for
depression and a sense of losing control, which in turn appeared to influence the
deterioration of physical health. The longitudinal nature of this study allowed the
researchers to show that it is not simply the case that people who are more
depressed or ill are more likely to lose their job and suffer financial strain, but that
financial strain actually increases depression and decreases health. Lange and
Byrd (1998) found similar results in their survey of New Zealand university
students. They reported that the effect of financial distress on physical health
was attributable to the effect of financial distress on mental health. Financial
distress makes people feel depressed and anxious, which in turn results in a
perceived deterioration in physical health.
Innumerable studies show that financial stress increases levels of both
depression and anxiety, and decreases quality of life in men and women. In their
study of more than 400 husbands and wives in rural Iowa conducted during the
agricultural crisis of the late 1980s, Lorenz, Conger, and Montague (1994)
reported that financial pressure was strongly correlated with symptoms of
depression for both husbands and wives. In another report, Conger and
colleagues (1993b) show that of 35 different stressors (e.g., illness, injury, legal
issues, troubles with children), financial stress was most strongly linked with
depression, anxiety, and hostility in their sample of husbands. Among wives,
financial stress was also significantly linked with depression, anxiety and physical
2 A longitudinal study is one in which the same research participants are followed over
the course of time. This allows researchers to better test the notion that one factor (say
economic pressure) causes changes in something else (e.g., symptoms of depression).
If both economic pressure and depression are assessed only at one single point in time,
then it is impossible to know whether economic pressure is causing depression, whether
depression is causing economic pressure, or whether something else is causing both.
12
health complaints, although family stressors were the most strongly associated
with these outcomes. These family stressors very likely included dealing with a
depressed and hostile husband and distressed children.
Based on their study of a representative sample of 810 adults from Utah, Pittman
and Lloyd (1988) reported that a greater degree of financial stress predicted not
only lower ratings of life satisfaction, but it also predicted lower ratings of
satisfaction with one’s marriage and lower ratings of satisfaction with one’s role
as parent. Galambos and Silbereisen (1987), in a longitudinal of 112 two-parent
families in Berlin, found that income loss was related to more pessimistic life
outlooks for both men and women, which in turn affected the outlook of their
children.
In another longitudinal study, Pearlin, Menaghan, Lieberman, and Mullan (1981)
demonstrated that increases in financial strain from the first interview with
participants to a second interview 4 years later predicted changes in depression,
self-esteem, and sense of personal control that participants felt they had over
their lives. Specifically, as financial strain increased, depression increased and
self-esteem and sense of control over one’s life decreased. Similarly, Stokes and
Cochrane (1984) showed that people who were unemployed experienced more
depression, hostility, and less self-esteem relative to those who were employed.
In this study, unemployed participants and a group of people who had similar
demographic characteristics (e.g., same age, same gender) but who remained
employed were interviewed within the first month of their unemployment and then
after six months. The results indicated that at both times, the unemployed were
worse off on the measures noted above.
Chronic financial strain has also been associated with increased alcohol
consumption. Peirce, Frone, Russell, and Cooper (1994) interviewed a random
sample of 1,424 men and women who lived in New York State and found,
consistent with the other studies noted here, that chronic financial strain was
13
strongly associated with increased levels of depression. They also found that
people who were more depressed were likely to drink more alcohol to cope with
their situation. There was a direct association between chronic financial strain
and increasing drinking as a coping strategy. Hence, people who are under
financial stress may drink more alcohol both because they are depressed and
because they believed that drinking provided some direct relief from the stress.
It is very clear that being financially stressed puts one at increased risk of
becoming depressed, or at least increasing the number of depressive symptoms
one exhibits. Depression is not simply sadness or laziness. Depression is a
serious mental disorder that not only robs people of their joy of life, but it also has
significant motivational, cognitive, and behavioural consequences. People who
are depressed become hopelessly mired in a worldview where it seems that
nothing they can do will change anything; where getting out of bed in the morning
is the most difficult thing to do; and where one expects the worst and is not
surprised when bad things keep happening. Research indicates that people who
are depressed are motivationally crippled (i.e., they have no energy to try), and
they see the world through a pessimistic lens. There are also clear physiological
and neurochemical changes in depressed persons. Classic symptoms of
depression include difficulties falling and staying asleep, loss of pleasure and
interest in things (e.g., sex), increased irritability, and chronic feelings of
tiredness or fatigue. It is important to recognize and deal with the symptoms of
depression. Given the impact that depression has on an individual, it is not
surprising that once a person is depressed, its effects permeate through his or
her interactions with others, and any other activities the individual is trying to
carry out (e.g., work, parenting). All of these effects serve to perpetuate the
depression. Even family members tend to avoid interactions with the depressed
person (Coyne et al., 1987; Nolen-Hoeksema & Davis, 1999).
14
Financial Stress and the Marriage Relationship
In addition to the effects that financial stress have on mental and physical health,
financial stress also has an adverse effect on marital relationships. Several
studies indicate that as financial stress increases, couples argue more –
particularly over money. Such effects were alluded to earlier in Pittman and
Lloyd’s study (1988), which found that greater financial stress was associated
with lower satisfaction with marriage. Conger, Reuter, and Conger (2000), in their
study of rural Iowans, found that greater financial pressure was associated with
lower marital satisfaction and greater marital instability. They suggest that as
financial pressures increase, couples become preoccupied with financial issues,
and their perceived lack of control over the situation often leads to frustration,
anger, and general demoralization. As individuals become more depressed, they
withdraw more from their spouse, offering less emotional support and spend
more time arguing and blaming each other. Similarly, for urban American
couples, Fox and Chancey (1998) found that financial pressure and partners’
level of job insecurity were related to decreased self-esteem and satisfaction with
the marriage and to increased marital trouble and family conflict. In the Fox and
Chancey study, family conflict was assessed in terms of participant reports of
physical and verbal aggression between partners, and between parents and
children. As financial stress increased, couples were more likely to fight and
more likely to break up.
Overall, couples experiencing greater levels of financial pressure report lower
levels of support for each other. Lorenz, Conger, and Montague (1994) found
that financial pressure was modestly associated with decreased levels of social
support within the family. Simons et al. (1993) measured social support through
self and observer report and found that people under greater financial pressure
tended to offer less emotional support to their spouse. Moreover, Conger, Ge,
and Lorenz (1994) and Conger et al. (2000) found that financial pressure was
associated with increased depressed mood for both partners, which in turn
exacerbated an irritable and hostile style of interactions between the partners. It
15
was the depression and hostility that were associated with lower marital
satisfaction and greater marital instability.
Similarly, Vinokur, Price, and Caplan (1996) examined the role of support versus
undermining behaviours for marital partners experiencing financial stress. They
surveyed 815 urban job seekers and their partners twice (6 months apart) and
found, consistent with the other research noted here, that the greater the level of
financial stress, the more depressive symptoms reported by both partners. They
also found that if the partner of the person looking for work was depressed, that
person had less ability to provide social support (e.g., express care and concern,
provide help) to the job seeker. The partner was also more likely to engage in
undermining behaviours such as criticizing and insulting the job seeker. The
increase in undermining behaviours and the decrease in support led to reduced
satisfaction with the relationship. These effects were consistent for both men and
women.
In their analysis of data from a longitudinal study of adjustment during the Great
Depression, Liker and Elder (1983) found that these effects are not new. They
showed that income loss between the years of 1929 through the mid-1930s led
to more family discord, as men who lost income became more tense, irritable,
and explosive. This study, begun before the economic Depression hit, is in a
unique position to illustrate whether certain personal characteristics put people at
increased risk for negative outcomes. The researchers found that although most
people who suffered significant income loss during the Depression experienced
marital discord, the effects were strongest for couples with unstable marriages in
1929-1930. Those couples who were judged to be “happy, frank, affectionate,
and in agreement on most things” in 1929-1930 were least likely to experience
marriage discord and marriage collapse in later years.
16
Financial Stress and Parenting
Financial stress also has a negative impact on how parents parent. Several
studies now show that parents (especially fathers) who are experiencing financial
stress are less responsive to their children’s needs, are less consistent in their
parenting, and are more inconsistent in their discipline of children.
A review by McLoyd (1989) concluded that “fathers who respond to economic
loss with increased irritability and pessimism are less nurturant and more punitive
and arbitrary in their interactions with the child. These fathering behaviors
increase the child’s risk of socioemotional problems, deviant behaviour, and
reduced aspirations and expectations.” McLloyd’s review indicates that fathers
under financial stress due to unemployment may spend more time with their
children than employed fathers, but this extra time spent with children is often not
quality time.
Elder, Nguyen, and Caspi (1985) analyzed archival data from the Oakland
Growth Study from the Great Depression era (note that this is a different study
than the Great Depression study cited earlier by Liker & Elder). Researchers
interviewed 167 children and their mothers in 1931 and again in 1935. The
mothers’ parenting behaviour did not change much regardless of economic
hardship. The father’s behaviour, however, did change with income loss. As
economic hardship increased, fathers became more rejecting, more indifferent,
and less supporting of their children.
Conger, Ge, Elder, Lorenz, and Simons (1994) in a 3-year longitudinal study of
7th grade adolescents and their parents found that financial pressure was related
to conflict between parents and children, particularly over money issues. The
adolescents want the clothes, games, and entertainment and lifestyle options of
their peers, which the parents are unable to afford. As we will see in the next
section on the effects of financial stress on children, this conflict between parents
and adolescents plays itself out in the adolescents’ behaviour outside the home.
17
In a subsequent report based on these same data, Conger and colleagues
(1999) reported that adolescents' developing perception of the family's financial
pressure negatively influenced their feelings of distress and sense of personal
mastery. That is, as financial pressure mounted, children became more
depressed and anxious, and began to feel less control over their lives.
Lempers, Clark-Lempers, and Simons (1989), in a survey of 622 adolescents
from grade 9 to 12 who lived in the American Midwest, found a strong
association between perceived economic hardship in the family and less parental
nurturance. Moreover, they found that with greater perceived economic hardship
there was less consistent discipline. In general, to the extent that adolescent
children saw that their parents were experiencing economic hardship, they also
reported that their parents were less nurturing and less supportive, and more
inconsistent and rejection-oriented in their discipline.
A study by Mistry et al. (2002) of an ethnically diverse, low-income sample of 419
elementary school-aged children and their parents found that increased distress
in financially stressed parents was associated with problems with parenting,
including being less responsive to the needs of their children, being less
affectionate with their children, and being inconsistent and more punitive in their
discipline. These parenting responses in turn were associated with behavioural
problems in the children. That is, children of less responsive and more
inconsistent parents were rated by teachers to be more aggressive, hyperactive,
and required discipline at school more frequently.
Margolin and Gordis (2003), in a survey of 177 families with young children,
found that fathers under greater financial strain had higher potential for abusing
their children as compared to fathers who were not under financial strain. If there
18
was both financial stress and parenting stress, and if there was parent-to-parent
aggression, there was stronger potential for child abuse.3
III. Effects on Children
Children of financially stressed parents tend to be more prone to mental health
problems, depression, loneliness, and are more emotionally sensitive (Elder et
al., 1985; Lempers et al., 1989; Werner & Smith, 1982). They are less sociable
and more distrustful, and are more likely to feel excluded by their peers,
especially if they are girls (Buss & Redburn, 1983; Conger et al., 1993a; Elder,
1974). Boys of financially stressed parents are likely to exhibit low self-esteem, to
show behaviour problems in school, and be susceptible to negative peer
pressure (Elder et al., 1985) and alcohol and drug problems (Conger, Reuter, &
Conger, 2000). Financial stress is related to poorer academic performance in
both boys and girls (Clark-Lempers, Lempers, & Netusil, 1990; Conger et al.,
1992, 1993a; Mistry et al, 2002). Takeuchi, Williams, and Adair (1991) conducted
interviews with a representative US sample of 1,377 children aged 7-11 years
and their parents. They found that financial stress was associated with more
symptoms of depression, antisocial behaviour, and impulsive behaviour in
children.
Conger et al. (1999) reported that adolescents who believed their families were
having financial hardships also reported a lower sense of mastery, particularly for
boys. A lower sense of mastery was associated with greater levels of anxiety and
depression. In a different sample of children and their parents, Conger et al.
(2002) also showed that family financial stress predicted attention deficit and
conduct problems in children. Further analysis, however, indicated that these
3 Note that in the Margolin and Gordis study, potential for child abuse was measured
instead of actual child abuse. This was done for ethical and legal reasons. The validity of
this measure of potential for child abuse has been demonstrated in other studies of
known child abusers. That is, people known to be child abusers tend to score high on
this scale. We nevertheless recommend caution in interpreting these results.
19
problems could be traced back to the parents. That is, financial stress led parents
to become depressed, which in turn was linked to changes in how they parented,
and it was this change in parenting style that predicted behavioural problems in
their children.
As noted in the previous section, Mistry et al.'s (2002) study of elementary school
children from low-income families also showed indirect effects of parent's
financial stress on children's behaviour. That is, Mistry et al. showed that parents
with greater financial stress were more likely to be distressed (i.e., depressed,
exhibit chronic worry), and that this greater distress led to less parental
responsiveness and more inconsistent discipline, which in turn was associated
with teacher ratings of greater hyperactivity, more aggression, and more frequent
disciplinary actions for kids of distressed parents.
A Swedish study by Hagquist (1998) of over 2,400 adolescents in ninth grade
found that adolescents who worried more about their family's finances perceived
their own health as worse than those who did not worry about finances. In fact,
the effect of financial stress on health was stronger than was the effect of any
other stressor in this study (e.g., worry about illness or injury, accident, parental
unemployment).
A study by Flanagan and Eccles (1993) of almost 900 US children going through
the transition from elementary school to junior high indicated that children of
families simultaneously experiencing a decline in work status (e.g., becoming laid
off, being demoted) increased their level of disruptive behaviour in school (e.g.,
more incidences where they punched another child, wrote on school property,
disrupted class, or refused to work, as rated by the children themselves) from
elementary to junior high, and became less socially competent (e.g., the
student's ability to get along with others, ability to handle stress and frustration,
as rated by teachers). Such differences were not observed for children of families
with improved work status (changing from unemployment or underemployment to
20
fulltime employment) or stable work status over the period of the child's transition
from elementary school to junior high. Although it is more common for boys to
exhibit disruptive behaviour, the researchers found that the effects of parents'
financial stress affected girls as much as it affected boys. What is impressive
about this study is that the researchers obtained information from children, their
parents, and teachers both before and after the transition, which allowed the
analysis of change from multiple perspectives (child, parent, teacher).
Other studies indicate that children take on the pessimistic outlook of their
stressed parents. The Galambos and Silbereisen (1987) study noted earlier is a
case in point. They showed that adolescent children (especially girls) of
financially stressed parents set lower expectations for their own careers than
their less stressed peers. As parents became pessimistic about their economic
outlook, their children came to expect that they will not be able to find a good job
in the future. As one adolescent put it after both his mother and father lost their
jobs,
The future stinks. You're supposed to spend your childhood
preparing for the real life of being an adult. But what if that real life
is no good? What's the sense? Look at my parents. They always
did everything the way you're supposed to. Now look at them –
nobody will give them a job…. What's the sense of trying in school.
There's no jobs for my dad or my mom. Why should I believe there
will be jobs for me when I get out [of school]? (as quoted in
McLloyd, 1989, p. 299).
To summarize, the effect of parents' financial stress on children is quite
consistent. Study after study indicates that financial pressure – whether due to
poverty, unemployment, or economic downturn – has negative "trickle down"
effects on children (Siegal, 1984). Although some studies show these effects are
stronger for boys than for girls, whereas other studies show the reverse, these
differences may have more to do with what outcome was measured (e.g.,
depression is more common in girls; disruptive behaviour is more common in
boys) than they do with differential impact of financial stress on boys and girls. In
general, children of financially stressed parents tend to be more depressed, more
21
anxious, exhibit behaviour problems in school, perform less well academically,
and lower their career expectations.
It is important to note that many of these effects on children are indirect. That is,
children appear to exhibit these problems to the extent that their parents are
depressed and become less nurturant and understanding in their parenting (e.g.,
Conger et al. 1992, 1993a, 1999, 2002; Lempers et al., 1989). This means that
children will not be at risk for these negative outcomes to the extent that parents
who are able to maintain positive, nurturant parenting skills despite financial
stress. Unfortunately, financial pressure makes it much more difficult to maintain
effective, nurturing relationships with one's children, particularly for men. It is also
vitally important that spouses continue to support each other emotionally during
times of financial stress, and not fall into a conflictual and accusatory style of
communicating. Lastly, it is important that symptoms of depression be
recognized and treated effectively. Classic symptoms of depression include
difficulties falling and staying asleep, loss of pleasure and interest in things (e.g.,
hobbies, food, sex), increased irritability, and chronic feelings of tiredness or
fatigue.
On the more positive side, there is some suggestive evidence that as the
financial pressure is lifted, some of the negative effects of stress disappear. In a
sample of residents in southeastern Michigan interviewed during the
economically lean years of the mid 1980s, Kessler, Turner, and House (1989)
found that as unemployed workers returned to work, their symptoms of
depression abated. It must be noted that those who returned to work in this study
were unemployed for less than 12 months, and so it is not clear whether the
same result would hold for people facing chronic financial pressure.
If it is the case, however, that the return to work eases the negative effects of
financial stress including depression, then it is important to consider how
personal resources can help people in their job search. In a study of 201
22
unemployed people and 128 employed people in Australia, Waters and Moore
(2002) also found that, regardless of level of actual financial hardship, regaining
employment eases the feeling of financial distress. Those who found work faster
were people who had a stronger sense of personal control over their situation
and who engaged in interesting and meaningful leisure activities while they were
unemployed. Such leisure activities could include things like volunteer work and
sports, which are not necessarily costly but add meaning to one's life.
IV. Cost to Society
It is difficult to estimate the costs of financial stress, and bankruptcy in particular,
for the community and society in general. The direct cost of bankruptcies in
Canada last year was $2.7 billion (Office of Superintendent of Bankruptcy, 2003).
But this cost does not take into account the economic cost of a depressed
employee, a family in strife, or children acting out at home and at school. Martin
Shain and his colleagues (2002) in their review of the costs of mental health and
substance abuse problems at work, however, provided a conservative estimate
that anxiety, depression, and substance abuse costs Canadian businesses more
than $11 billion per year in direct losses in productivity and an additional $22
billion per year in indirect costs, based on 1993 data provided by Moore, Moa,
Zhang, and Clarke (1997). They note that these estimates do not include costs
related to health care or social services. Shain et al. (2002) report that up to 10%
of people in the workforce will manifest serious and acute problems with
depression, anxiety, and/or substance abuse and a further 15% likely manifest
subclinical levels of these mental health problems. Although workplace stress
may be the cause of a considerable proportion of these problems, it is also likely
that for many people reporting anxiety, depression, and substance abuse, these
problems are related to their home life and include dealing with financial stress.
As has been clearly identified in the present review, financial stress is
consistently linked with increased risk for depression, substance abuse, and
family conflict. It is likely that these effects result in lost work time for people who
23
are employed and less time spent looking for work for people who would like to
find jobs.
One must also consider the cost of financial stress on children. What is the cost
to society of a child who regularly disrupts class, refuses to work at school, or
turns to drugs and alcohol for escape? It is beyond our ability to estimate the cost
of depression and antisocial behaviour in children. If left untreated, however, the
cost to society of children with emotional and behavioural problems will be borne
not merely by the current society, but also by the society of the next generation.
V. Summary and Conclusions
With the number of personal bankruptcies in Canada soaring, one might assume
that more Canadian families are living near the financial breaking point than at
any time since the Great Depression. If it is true that most people who seek
bankruptcy protection do so as a last resort, after living in debt crisis for months
on end, then the roughly 100,000 Canadians declaring bankruptcy or filing
proposals each year represent only a small proportion of Canadian families who
are living under considerable financial strain or stress.
Our review of the psychological literature on the effects of financial stress
indicates that such effects are broad and pervasive. Central to these effects,
however, is the fact that financial stress makes people vulnerable to the serious
psychological illness of depression. As we stated earlier, depression is not simply
feeling "down in the dumps." It is an illness that carries considerable emotional,
motivational, cognitive, and neurological changes.
Once depression sets in, several other things begin to happen. First, people who
are depressed become pessimistic about their future, come to see themselves as
failures, stop taking care of themselves, and become irritable with, if not hostile
toward, others. Depressed people are not fun to be around, and therefore it is not
24
surprising that under such conditions, alcohol and drug use increases (Peirce et
al., 1994), and family discord emerges (Conger et al., 1992, 1994, 2000).
Satisfaction with the marriage suffers and many relationships end (Fox &
Chancey, 1998). Children who would otherwise receive warmth, encouragement,
and compassion from their parents now receive distracted attention, criticism,
and punitive and inconsistent discipline (McLloyd, 1989; Mistry et al., 2002).
These changes in parenting lead to changes in children's behaviour at school in
terms of a drop in academic performance and increases in disruptive and
antisocial behaviour (Clark-Lempers et al., 1990; Flanagan & Eccles, 1993).
Children of depressed parents are at increased risk of developing depression
themselves, and are also at increased risk of developing alcohol and drug
dependencies (Conger et al., 2000; Kessler, Davis, & Kendler, 1997). As the
study by Margolin and Gordis (2003) indicated, such children are also at
increased risk for child abuse. Soon, financial stress cascades into a series of
stressors that overwhelm one's ability to cope (Hobfall & Spielberger, 1992; Price
et al., 2002).
Although it is difficult to assess the consequences of financial stress for society,
research suggests that depression, alcohol, and drug problems in adults cost the
Canadian economy in excess of $30 billion per year (Shain et al., 2002). Added
to this is the cost of depression and antisocial behaviour problems in children.
Such children also tend to set lower expectations for their own careers. These
costs, if left unchecked, are paid by the current society as well as society of
tomorrow.
The picture we paint may seem rather bleak. We wish to emphasize, however,
that there is hope. Many of the studies indicated that the effects of financial
stress are largely indirect and attributable to depression. That is, financial stress
increases one's risk of depression, which in turn increases one's risk of
developing health problems, marital discord, inconsistent and ineffective
parenting, and emotional and behavioural problems in children. If depression is
25
the lynchpin, then this suggests that preventing or limiting the depression will
reduce or eliminate the effects of the stress on families. Research on families
who experienced significant financial stress during the Great Depression (Elder,
1974; Liker & Elder, 1983), and, more recently, the agricultural crisis of the mid
1980s (Conger, Reuter, & Elder, 1999), indicates that two factors seem to be
important in buffering individuals and families from the negative effects of
financial stress: (1) a strong sense of mastery (i.e., a firm belief that one can
manage and control stressful situations); and (2) a strong and supportive marital
relationship. A strong and supportive relationship is not simply one of warmth and
caring, it also requires the ability to problem solve together.
These findings on the buffers of financial stress suggest ways of limiting its
consequences. For instance, developing problem solving and financial
management skills (to the extent that such skills will increase a sense of mastery)
may not only serve to mitigate the stress, but also may be perceived as a positive
outcome. Second, focusing on efforts to strengthen and maintain the spousal
relationship during times of financial stress may also prevent or limit feelings of
depression and loss of self-esteem, which in turn should buffer children from the
negative outcomes noted above. It is often noted by crisis survivors that family
relationships have been enriched by their experience (Davis, Nolen-Hoeksema,
& Larson, 1998; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004).
It may be tempting to regard financial stress as something afflicting only the
lower ends of socioeconomic scale, and perceive that the results we have
presented here speak more about social class than they do about financial
stress. This is decidedly not the case. Most of the studies we reviewed here were
based on middle-class samples. The researchers took pains to control
(statistically) for socioeconomic status, and to show that effects were attributable
to changes in level of income, debt, or level of financial pressure from one point
in time to another. Certainly people with a larger pool of savings from which they
may draw in times of financial stress will feel less financial pressure (or it may
26
take them longer to feel the pressure), but once the pressure is there, they are as
apt to experience the consequences of financial stress as those who no longer
have a pool of savings from which to draw.
Our review has focused largely on the effects of financial stress on families. A
recent report published by the Vanier Institute of the Family, however, suggests
that single people in Canada aged 18-24 tend to suffer great economic hardship
(Sauvé, 2004). This demographic group has relatively low income, negligible
savings, and a high debt load, which puts them at high risk for financial stress. To
the extent that these individuals lack the mastery skills and a spousal relationship
that have been shown to buffer others from the negative effects of financial
stress, this group may be particularly at risk for depression, alcohol and drug
abuse, and perhaps even suicide. Although a few of the studies we reviewed
above suggest that this demographic group does experience financial stress
(e.g., Hagquist, 1998; Lange & Byrd, 1998), the comparative research between
younger and older adults has not yet been conducted.
Unlike many other stressors that people may experience over the course of their
adult life, financial stress is unique insofar as it is private. People under financial
stress may be ashamed to admit their problems, and so may delay seeking
assistance and support. In a society that measures worth in financial terms, to be
unable to meet one's financial obligations may imply that one has failed at a
central task in life, and therefore, that one has no claim to self-respect. It is little
wonder that people will put off or avoid dealing with financial pressures for as
long as possible, and do all that they can to maintain the outward appearance of
financial well-being. This is not an effective strategy.
The research literature reviewed was largely based on groups of people facing
financial stress because of job loss. Financial stress attributable to gambling,
overspending, or other personal reasons may have other important
consequences. Further research is needed to understand the scope and gravity
27
of these consequences. Regardless of whether one's financial problems are
shared by a region (e.g., due to an economic downturn) or are individual (e.g.,
due to one's own financial mismanagement), in many respects financial stress is
still an individual issue. Irrespective of how common financial stress is in a
community, people still withdraw from social activities, get depressed, blame
themselves, and argue more with their family members (Jahoda, 1979).
Most of the research in the psychological literature is based on American and
European samples. We found no published research drawing from Canadian
samples. Although bankruptcies are three times more common in the United
States than they are in Canada, it is unclear whether the impact of financial
stress is any different in Canada. Research is necessary to determine whether
the Canadian social safety net softens the impact of financial stress.
28
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... These data will be useful for family counselors to gain a deeper understanding of the causes of disturbances in marital relations and to develop particular recommendations. Davis and Mantler (2004) defined financial stress as "the subjective, unpleasant feeling that one is unable to meet financial demands, afford the necessities of life, and have sufficient funds to make ends meet (e.g., have to reduce standard of living)." This definition corresponds to a wide range of situations: job loss, sharp decrease in income, debt, forced heavy expenses, investment losses, etc. Financial stress tends to become chronic, and its causes can be either external (regional economy) or internal: poor management of your finances, high level of ambitions, propensity to spend, fear of poverty, etc. Economists are interested in the objective characteristics of such a crisis (household income relative to regional norms and the dynamics of its decline), while psychologists pay attention to the subjective characteristics of financial stress and the accompanying factors. ...
... The core effect of financial stress is a high level of depression, which deprives people of the joys of life, with significant motivational, cognitive and behavioral consequences (Frankham et al., 2020). The statistics of developed industrial countries are indicative in this regard, which shows that the deterioration of economic indicators (population income, unemployment rate) is accompanied by an increase in overall mortality and mortality caused by cardiovascular diseases, an increase in the number of suicides, the number of voluntary and involuntary patients in psychiatric clinics (especially men), the criminalization of behavior and an increase in the number of prisoners, increased use of drugs, cigarettes and alcohol, an increase in the proportion of alone people (Davis & Mantler, 2004). ...
... Couples may experience anger, frustration, depression, and often argue over money; they become estranged, offer less emotional support and care. As the stress response deepens, conflicts begin to be accompanied by criticism, blaming, aggression, which further reduces satisfaction with the relationship (Davis & Mantler, 2004). The severity of depressive reactions affects the ability of partners to help each other, exacerbates the irritable and hostile style of interaction. ...
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The article analyzes interaction of spouses in overcoming financial stress. An online survey of 136 married couples was conducted during the lockdown caused by the spread of COVID-19 accompanied by family income losses. Frequency and severity of discussions on financial topics; level of subjective economic well-being, activity of coping strategies, family cohesion and adaptation were measured. Results showed that the discussion of financial topics is a stressor for married couples, accompanied by contradictions and conflicts, but ultimately helps to improve quality of relations between spouses, and also increases the adaptability of the family system in a situation of socio-economic crisis. Subjects of conflicts were defined. Influence of gender roles on financial consciousness and behavior was shown. Wives are more likely to initiate discussions on economic topics and more inclined to economic anxiety, while husbands showed economic optimism. The severity of financial stress correlates with assessments of family cohesion. Correlations between financial well-being and coping behavior of husbands and wives represent the family as an entire open system. Partners are interdependent in overcoming financial stress. Collective family coping is determined by individual reactions of spouses. The efforts of partners can be congruent and complementary.
... Studied by scholars since the 19 th century, financial stress has covered a wide range of heterogeneous contexts from financial stress experienced by university students [73], U.S. farmers [74], public sector employees [75], families and societies [76] to cancer patients [77]. As already underlined here, no study on financial stress has focused on the mobile banking context. ...
... Consistent findings on financial stress have shown a significant positive relationship between financial stress, psychological outcomes such as lowered self-esteem and an increase in depression [76], behavioral consequences such as lower work productivity [77] academic performance [73] increase in absenteeism [78], physiological outcomes such as higher blood pressure and heart rate [75] and a general declining of physical and mental health [76]. ...
... Consistent findings on financial stress have shown a significant positive relationship between financial stress, psychological outcomes such as lowered self-esteem and an increase in depression [76], behavioral consequences such as lower work productivity [77] academic performance [73] increase in absenteeism [78], physiological outcomes such as higher blood pressure and heart rate [75] and a general declining of physical and mental health [76]. ...
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In the mobile banking context, the decision to discontinue using a certain service has received sparse attention. Previous research has identified this behavior as one potential coping strategy to avoid stressful situations related to the use of technology. Considering that forms of stress are multidimensional, complex, and situational, this research proposal investigates the determining factors influencing users’ responses and coping behaviors through the perspective of a potential interaction between technostress and financial stress in the mobile banking context. Our literature review on mobile banking, technostress, and financial stress research, shows that prior research on technostress 1) has not explored the context of mobile banking; 2) does not investigate simultaneously users’ psychophysiological and behavioral responses and; 3) that the interaction between technostress and non-technological stress has not been explored. It also shows that 4) even though factors of technostress and financial stress differ, their outcomes seem generally similar. Based on these findings and in order to disentangle financial stress and technostress impacts on users’ responses and behaviors, an experimental design based on an adapted version of the Trust Game is proposed.
... Since the major transition in Mongolia negatively affected the livelihoods of many households, in turn negatively affecting family resources and levels of stress, father-child relationships may have changed due to this stress and a decline in the mental health status of the mother and/or father. In a review paper conducted by McLoyd (1989) and a commissioned report by Davis & Mantler (2004), men experiencing unemployment or financial stress were found to generally have poorer mental health outcomes including depression, anxiety, and poor life satisfaction and that these contributed to marital conflict and poor parenting. Marital conflict in particular has been shown to lead to lower rates of marital satisfaction and increases in the risk of separation in parents (Davis & Mantler, 2004;McLoyd, 1989). ...
... In a review paper conducted by McLoyd (1989) and a commissioned report by Davis & Mantler (2004), men experiencing unemployment or financial stress were found to generally have poorer mental health outcomes including depression, anxiety, and poor life satisfaction and that these contributed to marital conflict and poor parenting. Marital conflict in particular has been shown to lead to lower rates of marital satisfaction and increases in the risk of separation in parents (Davis & Mantler, 2004;McLoyd, 1989). The divorce rates increased in Mongolia during the post-transition period from the consistent rate of 0.1 divorces per 1000 population in the 1990s to a sudden increase to 0.6 per 1000 in 2000 (NSO, 2019b). ...
... This pattern of separation also appears in line with the decline in father presence in Ulaanbaatar and urban regions. As for father engagement, fathers who experience either or both economic-related mental health problems and marital conflict may exhibit poorer parenting since they tend to be more hostile, less nurturant, and even abusive with their children (Davis & Mantler, 2004;McLoyd, 1989). This may explain the marked decline in prevalence of father engagement between 2005 and 2010 which happened to coincide with the 2010 dzud event of national-and historic-scale as well as a sudden rise in unemployment in 2009 and 2010 in Mongolia (Coslet et al., 2017;NSO, 2019c). ...
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Many households in Mongolia are facing increased livelihood and financial insecurity due to rapid social, economic, political, and climate changes. There is concern regarding the effects of a loss in livelihoods and shifting gender roles on family dynamics in these households. This historical cross-sectional study explores patterns of father presence and father engagement with children under five in Mongolia between 2000–2013 using Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) data. Trend analyses were performed to explore changes in father presence and engagement from the four most recent datasets. Patterns were explored for demographic subgroups such as region of residence, urban/rural residence, child’s sex, and whether the household owned livestock. Multivariate logistic regression was also performed to adjust for potential confounding variables and covariates. The national point-prevalence of father presence fluctuated from 78–83% while father engagement fluctuated between 40–49% across the survey time-points. These fluctuations were only significant for father presence. Significant changes in father presence and engagement were evident in the Khangai, Central, and Ulaanbaatar regions, while in the Western region only significant changes for father engagement were found. Logistic regression showed a change in point-prevalence of father engagement between 2005 and 2010 and between 2005 and 2013, and changes in father presence and engagement over time remained significant after controlling for other covariates such as SES. The changes in father presence and engagement in many households may be due to the economic insecurities brought about by rapid macro-environmental changes.
... There is a significant positive relationship between financial stress and suicide. Financial stress further leads to the following: an increase in the level of alcohol consumption, depression, anger, frustration, blame, increase of argumentsparticularly over money, increased withdrawals particularly from spouse and offer less emotional support, criticizing and insulting the other partner, reduced satisfaction level from the relationship, less responsive to the children's needs, less nurturing, less consistent in the parenting role, poor academic performance, reduced aspirations and expectations, withdrawing from society, declining physical health such as increase in headaches, stomachaches and insomnia (Mantler & Davis, 2004). Overall, financial stress leads to an increased pessimistic outlook on life, and reduced mental health in particular (Mantler & Davis, 2004). ...
... Financial stress further leads to the following: an increase in the level of alcohol consumption, depression, anger, frustration, blame, increase of argumentsparticularly over money, increased withdrawals particularly from spouse and offer less emotional support, criticizing and insulting the other partner, reduced satisfaction level from the relationship, less responsive to the children's needs, less nurturing, less consistent in the parenting role, poor academic performance, reduced aspirations and expectations, withdrawing from society, declining physical health such as increase in headaches, stomachaches and insomnia (Mantler & Davis, 2004). Overall, financial stress leads to an increased pessimistic outlook on life, and reduced mental health in particular (Mantler & Davis, 2004). ...
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Financial stress, which has become a contemporary issue in the globe, directly and indirectly affects individual's behavior and disorders their physical and mental health. The main purpose of this study is to evaluate critically, the literature on financial stress of small and medium entrepreneurs and to build a financial stress-mitigating framework. The objectives of this study are to find the different aspects, measures and the level of financial stress of small and medium entrepreneurs to determine the consequences and methods of improving the financial stress to help policy makers to actively fill this missing gap and ultimately achieve economic development. The methodology used in this study was to review literature systematically using a sample of 151 most relevant studies published from 1936-2017 and critically appraise and synthesized findings qualitatively. The study revealed financial stress is less with those who are employed; elderly, having a lower debt load as a percentage of income, and possess better health and family relationships. Further, the financial stress is a cause of depression, anxiety, poor academic performance, unscheduled absence from work and negatively affects individual health, self-esteem, marriage satisfaction, parenting role and family functions. Hence, the study recommends overcoming financial stress as necessary to develop problem solving and financial management skills, develop effective handling of economic hardships, introduce more flexible repayment plans for loans; improve positive financial behaviors and budgets.
... Por lo tanto, es importante que se desarrollen las habilidades para volverse más conscientes de los riesgos y oportunidades financieras que existen, e incluso se recomienda solicitar ayuda a para tomar acciones efectivas para mejorar el bienestar financiero (Montoya, 2020). Davis y Mantler (2004) infieren que en general las personas no son verdaderamente conscientes de las finanzas personales, o bien regularmente fracasan al organizarlas y gestionarlas. Los altos niveles de endeudamiento, el desconocimiento entre activos y pasivos, la mala administración de recursos financieros y la confianza en que no caerán en el adeudo, son las principales características de las personas que manejan mal sus finanzas personales. ...
... Asimismo, se observan hallazgos en distintas investigaciones que demuestran que el estrés financiero es inversamente proporcional al número de hijos que tiene un individuo (Davis y Mantler, 2004). Estudios demuestran que el estrés financiero tiene una asociación directa con los bajos niveles de autoestima y es una variable predictora del pesimismo y la depresión. ...
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Este estudio presenta una serie de testimonios referentes a las finanzas personales de docentes universitarios de instituciones públicas y privadas de Ensenada (Baja California, México). En general se muestra un escenario donde estos individuos sufren de diversas situaciones, tales como: alto nivel de endeudamiento, disciplina de ahorro inexistente y gasto excesivo, acompañado de irresponsabilidad financiera. La metodología empleada para esta investigación implicó un estudio transversal llevado a cabo en varias universidades públicas y privadas. Se realizaron diez entrevistas semiestructuradas a profesores de tiempo completo en las áreas económico-administrativas, lo que permitió obtener información de primera mano, directamente de los sujetos de estudio, distribuidas en distintas universidades como: Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, Centro de Enseñanza Técnica y Superior, Universidad Tecnológica de Tijuana, Instituto Tecnológico de Ensenada y Universidad Xochicalco. Se encontraron similitudes en cuanto a la filosofía del dinero, ahorro y gasto realizado por los docentes universitarios, hecho que está muy relacionado con la forma en que obtuvieron su educación financiera de forma particular. Estos resultados conllevan un lastre que impide que se establezcan objetivos claros y concisos para la toma de decisiones financieras, o bien, salir de deudas personales. Finalmente, se hacen recomendaciones para la organización y gestión financiera, así como para el control de las finanzas personales de los profesores. Se observa finalmente que el género femenino lleva el liderazgo en cuanto a ahorro, realización de un presupuesto y menor endeudamiento.
... The study also proved that 69% of respondents are stress because of the financial issues. [5] We experience stress whenever we are. We worry about our health, our family, paying the bills, disappointing a loved one and whether we still have what it takes to get promoted or, sometimes, merely to keep our job. ...
... Individuals will have a significant effect on their behaviour when their behaviour perceives the environment negatively. Stress may happen in the context of family stress (Randall & Bodenmann, 2013), financial stress (Davis & Mantler, 2004), occupational stress (Narban et al., 2016), etc . ...
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The job stress is very prominent that always happens in any organisation or company nowadays. Many factors lead to job stress, such as personal problems, financial, low salary, and others. These factors can affect employees' productivity, commitment, and professionalism to perform their task. The workforce of a hotel plays an important role in satisfying a customer. A survey was distributed to 50 food and beverage staff using a convenient sampling approach via drop and collect method, at Anantara Desaru Coast Resort and Villas. The data was analysed by using Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) version 26. Based on the findings, all the independent variables have a significant association with job performance. Nevertheless, from the analysis of multiple linear regression, the results showed that time pressure and skill discretion significantly correlated to predict job performance.
... It is also one's unpleasing feeling that an individual is incapable of fulfilling financial needs, managing the living requirements and having adequate finances to make ends meet. Davis and Mantler [15] assert that stress involves the impressions of frightening, distress and scare, but may also anger and dissatisfaction. It is a point to note that the concept of financial stress and financial distress are not similar [56]. ...
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Understanding the financial well-being of lower-income group is a critical concern of any government as this group struggles most to meet up with their necessities. Despite the significance, little is known about financial well-being of low-income group. This study attempts to investigate the relationship between financial literacy, financial behaviour, financial stress, and financial well-being of B40 group in Malaysia. A total of 412 usable responses was derived from a survey in Klang Valley and analysed the data following partial least squares structural equation modelling (PLS-SEM) techniques. The results demonstrate that financial behaviour is the key antecedent followed by financial stress and financial literacy in predicting financial well-being. Hence, balancing between income and expenditure, managing financial stress, and increasing financial literacy would be necessary to assure financial well-being of lower-income group people. Governmental and institutional interventions are essential to equip the low-income group people with employment opportunities and financial knowledge to manage their basic living standards.
... Studies show that concerns about financial situation play a prominent role in the relationship between economic hardship and psychological well-being (Weich and Lewis, 1998;Taylor et al., 2011;Catalano et al., 2011;Wilson et al., 2020). Financial stress, which refers to the negative emotional state based on the individual's anxiety of failing to satisfy the life needs and economic demands (Davis and Mantler 2004), is described as one of the most crucial sources of psychosocial stress due to the financial aspects of many fundamental activities in daily life (Tesfaw and Yitayih, 2018). Financial stress is generally shaped by evaluations for the current monetary situation of the person, such as perceived financial adequacy, the financial concern levels, changes in financial status, and anticipated financial situation (Voydanoff, 1990). ...
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This study aimed to investigate the determinants of financial stress experienced in working life during the COVID-19 pandemic process in Turkey, and also the role of the confidence placed for the government pandemic action policies in reducing financial stress. For this purpose, online survey data obtained from 414 employees were analyzed with multivariate statistical methods. As a result of the analysis, the significant effect of job insecurity and pay satisfaction on financial stress was determined. Although it was found that trust in the policies against pandemics was effective in reducing financial stress, a significant moderating effect of trust in policies was not found in the relationship of other factors with financial stress. It is recommended to prevent practices that may cause revenue and employment losses in businesses and closely monitor the steps taken to inhibit abuse in this area accordingly.
Thesis
Cross-cultural studies on acculturation span across multiple disciplines such as psychology, sociology, and higher education, and seek to explore the cultural adaptation of immigrant and international students. Existing literature informed a guiding conceptual framework for understanding how students adjust to the local culture, and has identified obstacles that hinder the successful navigation of the acculturation process. The present study examined gaps in existing higher education literature on the socio-cultural adjustment process of African immigrant and international students (migrant students). Going beyond past studies, this investigation addressed three questions: What is the role of heritage culture and social class in African migrant students’ preparation for college in the United States (U.S.)? What barriers did African migrant students encounter as they navigate their way through American universities? Guided by a strengths-based perspective, how is heritage culture and access to capital associated with their navigation through and around those barriers in their adjustment process? To address these three research questions, this qualitative study employed in-depth interviews to examine the socio-cultural adjustment of African immigrant and international students (n=28) enrolled at four-year colleges in the U.S. A grounded theory approach to data analysis revealed how African immigrant and international students’ adjustment to the university environment was associated with both their background and university experiences. In terms of background, students’ socio-economic status and heritage culture were key factors that influenced their preparation for college in the U.S. Furthermore, the study revealed the strengths of students’ backgrounds in fostering a sense of community cultural wealth, which helped to facilitate students’ adjustment to their universities. Once African students entered college, they faced socio- cultural and academic barriers associated with: 1) cultural value differences; 2) experiences with racial/ethnic prejudice; and 3) and difficulty with the academic norms and expectations of U.S. universities. Additionally, students discussed access to cultural, academic, and social capital from four primary sources: extensive orientations, racially/culturally similar groups, faculty, and academic support programs/services. These cultural and university-based resources helped to mitigate the negative impact of stressful barriers, and supported students’ socio-cultural adjustment. Going beyond existing cross-cultural literature, findings informed the development of a new strengths-based conceptual model of cultural adjustment and resilience. This model provides a more comprehensive framework to understanding the socio-cultural adaptation process of African migrant and international students in higher education with important implications for multicultural diversity research, practice, and policy.
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Research on the impact of paternal job and income loss on the child is reviewed. Although some direct effects have been found, most effects are indirect and mediated through the changes that economic loss produces in the father's behavior and disposition. Fathers who respond to economic loss with increased irritability and pessimism are less nurturant and more punitive and arbitrary in their interactions with the child. These fathering behaviors increase the child's risk of socioemotional problems, deviant behavior, and reduced aspirations and expectations. The child also may model the somatic complaints of the father. The child's temperament, physical attractiveness, relationship with the mother, and degree of contact with the father are discussed as factors that condition the father's treatment of the child following economic loss. Economic hardship also may influence the child's development indirectly through the events that it potentiates (e.g., divorce) and discourages (e.g., marriage). High maternal support and experiences that encourage maturity and autonomy appear to be critical sources of psychological resilience in children who have experienced economic hardship.
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This article describes the concept of posttraumatic growth, its conceptual foundations, and supporting empirical evidence. Posttraumatic growth is the experience of positive change that occurs as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life crises. It is manifested in a variety of ways, including an increased appreciation for life in general, more meaningful interpersonal relationships, an increased sense of personal strength, changed priorities, and a richer existential and spiritual life. Although the term is new, the idea that great good can come from great suffering is ancient. We propose a model for understanding the process of posttraumatic growth in which individual characteristics, support and disclosure, and more centrally, significant cognitive processing involving cognitive structures threatened or nullified by the traumatic events, play an important role. It is also suggested that posttraumatic growth mutually interacts with life wisdom and the development of the life narrative, and that it is an on-going process, not a static outcome.
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Young unemployed people in six local communities in Sweden were interviewed to test the assumption that variations in the social and healtn effects of unemployment could be seen as a function of financial hardship and of experiences of shame. The results indicate that there seems to be a link between the health and social effects of unemployment, on the one hand, and the degree of financial hardship and the number of shaming experiences on the other. The group of unemployed people who suffered a greater degree of financial hardship and also experienced a greater number of shaming experiences seemed to exhibit the poorest health, reported deteriorated health to a greater degree than other groups, experienced negative changes in their lifestyle, did less in their free time, and had lower self-confidence than other unemployed persons. The opposite applied for those who experienced less financial hardship and less pressure in terms of experiences of shaming. Against this background, we have formulated a theoretical model based on financial circumstances and social bonds; a model that could have a wider value in explaining social and health problems.
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We report results from a large-scale survey of the effects of unemployment on emotional functioning. The study design explicitly considers the possibility that prior emotional functioning may influence the risk of unemployment and chances for reemployment. We document substantial effects of unemployment on distress as well as positive emotional effects of reemployment. Contrary to initial expectations, the probability of reemployment is unrelated to baseline emotional functioning. The elimination of elevated distress after reemployment suggests that the worst psychological effects of job loss can be minimized if opportunities exist for reemployment.
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This study examines the relative contributions of stress, social support, and family resources to the quality of family life in three domains—marital quality, parental satisfaction, and life satisfaction. Telephone interviews were conducted with a random sample of 810 adults. Hierarchical multiple regression was used to examine the impact of demographic factors, support and resource variables, and stress factors upon the quality of family life. Results indicate that both sets of variables made significant and unique contributions to the explanation of the quality of family life, but that stressors had, by far, the larger effect in each model. Among the stressors, consistent negative effects were found for stress in one's home life and for financial stress. Among the family resources examined, only the availability of privacy at home produced a consistent positive effect across models. Social supports appeared to play a larger role in the prediction of life satisfaction than in the other two models.
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This study examines the relationship between two measures of economic stress—welfare status and perceived financial stress—and children's emotional and behavioral problems. Longitudinal data from the National Survey of Children are used to test two hypotheses. The first hypothesis predicts that economic stress will adversely affect children's emotional and behavioral problems. Levels of depressive symptoms, impulsive behavior, and antisocial behavior are found to be higher among children who experienced either form of economic stress at least once between 1976 and 1981 compared to those who were unaffected by economic stress. The second hypothesis predicts that the presence of economic stress at both data collection points will have a more adverse impact than economic stress experienced at only one time point. Results provide only limited support for the persistence hypothesis. Research is needed to identify the specific processes by which economic stress affects children's well-being.
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In this study we investigated the effects of parents'working conditions and family economic hardship on parenting behaviors, and their subsequent effects on the self-efficacy of adolescent children. We ran separate structural equation models for employed fathers (n 316) and mothers (n 316) in intact, dual-earner families. The models employed panel data at four points in time, and used multiple reporters to reduce measurement error. Both the father's working conditions and the family's economic stress affected the father's parenting behaviors. For employed mothers, in rural dual-earner families, only family economic strain affected parenting behaviors; this finding was attributed to employment characteristics of the women in our sample. Parents' use of inductive parenting techniques and avoidance of harsh parenting behaviors, in turn, contributed to adolescents' self-efficacy. The effects of fathers' working conditions on parenting practices and children's outcomes remained robust even when family economic strain was included in the model.