Family Demography and Intergenerational Relationships

REU Site: Undergraduate Research in Race, Ethnicity and Fami Demography

Principal Investigator: Shannon Cavanagh
Funded by: National Science Foundation

The Population Research Center requests three years of funding for the Texas REU program. Our program focus this cycle is Race, Ethnicity and the Demography of U.S. families. Our primary goal is to create a new generation of scholars studying the intersection of demography, race/ethnicity, and families. We will pursue this goal through three related objectives: 1) to shed light on the evolving interaction between changes in family structure and the racial/ethnic diversification of the U.S. population; 2) to develop and support translational scholarship on family change; 3) to diversify the next generation of demographers conducting basic and applied research on family change in an array of professional settings.


Impact of Marital Quality and Alcohol Use on Health in Diverse Marriages

Principal Investigator: Amanda Pollitt
Faculty Mentor: Deb Umberson
Funded by:
 National Institutes of Health

Excessive alcohol use accounts for 88,000 deaths and nearly $225 billion in costs in the U.S. annually. Marriage is protective for alcohol use: married couples report less alcohol use than their unmarried counterparts. One pathway through which spouses influence each other is marital quality; marital quality is then inversely associated with alcohol use. Sexual minority people report elevated rates of alcohol use compared to heterosexuals, yet almost all past research on marital quality and alcohol use has been based on experiences of different-sex couples. We do not know if marriage is protective of alcohol use for same-sex couples as for heterosexual couples and whether these processes follow similar patterns when marriages consist of two men or two women. There is a need to understand marital quality and alcohol use in same-sex marriages to inform prevention and intervention programs to decrease sexual minority alcohol use disparities. In the proposed project, Ms. Pollitt’s major objective is to assess how marital quality in same- and different-sex marriages relates to alcohol use and how these associations differ for men and women in these marriages. She proposes to address this objective through the following aims: (1) Compare the association of day-to-day marital quality with alcohol use in same- and different-sex marriages; (2) Identify non-marital stressors that exacerbate the estimated effect of marital quality on alcohol use in same- and different-sex marriages; (3) Examine the impact of marital quality and alcohol use on physical and mental health symptoms for same- and different-sex couples.


Children's Family and Household Experiences by Maternal Education, Race and Ethnicity

Principal Investigator: Kelly Raley
Funded by: National Institutes of Health

Just under half of all children growing up in the 1990s experienced part of their childhood living with an unmarried parent (Bumpass and Lu 2000). Approximately 35 percent of children born between 1970 and 1990 experienced a spell of poverty before reaching age 15. Previous research has linked these aspects of childhood household experience to child cognitive and socio-emotional development. Basic descriptions of change and variation in children’s household experiences guide researchers interested in understanding the implications of family change and growing socioeconomic inequality for the health and well-being of the next generation. Yet we do not have contemporary descriptions of children’s family experiences while growing up or how these experiences vary by race-ethnicity or maternal education. Using data from the 2008 and 2014 SIPP panels this project will produce estimates of the percentage of children experiencing a single parent family and percent experiencing poverty, as well as duration in single-parent family and duration in poverty as well as overall household and income instability.


Collaborative Research: Mexican American Language Brokers’ Multiple Levels of Stress and Academic and Health Outcomes

Co-Principal Investigators: Su Yeong Kim, Belem G. Lopez, and Katherine Zeiders
Additional Investigator: Cindy Liu
Funded by: National Science Foundation

This proposal examines the academic and health outcomes of language brokers, i.e., children who act as intermediaries and translators for their parents, in Mexican immigrant families. Close to 90% of children in immigrant families perform a language brokering function in their family’s resettlement process, taking on the task of translating between their heritage language and English for parents with limited English-speaking skills. However, scholars have a limited and oftentimes contradictory understanding of the developmental consequences of being a language broker. The goal of this project is to illuminate the benefits and drawbacks of language brokering as it relates to parent-child relationships and, more importantly, as it relates to children’s adjustment in terms of physiological stress reactivity as well as academic and health outcomes. The project capitalizes on a previous NSF CAREER award to collect additional laboratory assessments, day-to-day diaries, and longitudinal data during adolescent language brokers’ transition from middle to high school in 449 Mexican immigrant families. The study has three research aims: 1) to identify profiles/subjective experiences of language brokers, examine their change over time, and understand how these profiles/subjective experiences affect parent-child relationships and adolescents’ academic, health, and psychosocial outcomes longitudinally; 2) to examine how language brokering affects daily, acute, and chronic levels of stress (cortisol) and, in turn, may predict outcomes; and 3) to determine how adolescents’ personal attributes, language brokering context, and cultural factors condition the effects examined in Aims 1 and 2. This project has the potential to shed light on the ways in which language brokering positively and negatively influences the adjustment of the children of Mexican immigrants, a large and growing minority group in the U.S.

Work-Family Dynamics and Women's Transitions into Parenthood

Principal Investigators: Robert Crosnoe and Kelly Raley
Additional Investigator: Jennifer Glass, Co-Investigator
Funded by: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

The potential for work demands to conflict with family responsibilities has long been considered a major social issue with implications for health and well-being, including and especially for women. Likewise,the potential struggles of the transition into parenthood-and the consequences for parents and children-has drawn a great deal of attention in research and policy. This R21 connects these significant issues by exploring how the work conditions of new mothers affect the stress that they feel when their children are young, with a special focus on those whose children have special health and developmental challenges and on differences among women who are single or involved in various kinds of romantic partnerships. Identifying which mothers are at risk (or thriving) and which kinds of jobs hurt (or help)them can support women's health during a critical period of their lives with potential benefits for workplace productivity and children's positive development. The innovations of this project include the integration of rich occupational data from a representative sample of U.S. workers with detailed data onfamilies from a representative sample of U.S. children, the consideration of positive work conditions that facilitate work-family balance and not just the negative work conditions that lead to work-familyconflict, the exploration of the role of children's health and behavior in strengthening or weakening the potential effects of work on mothers, the examination of mothers' partnership statuses as both reciprocally related to their work conditions and influencing how they experience those conditions, and the steps taken to address some threats to causal inference that are common in the work-family literature. Occupational data from O*NET will be incorporated into the Early Childhood LongitudinalStudy-Birth Cohort to create a broad battery of work characteristics and conditions for mothers, with latent class analysis and other techniques used to identify multi-dimensional work profiles. These time-varying work variables will then be used to predict mothers' feelings of parenting stress and depressive symptomatology across the first four years of their children's lives with cross-lagged structural equation modeling, with fixed and random effects employed to address the potential impact of stable unobservable confounds and post-hoc robustness indices calculated to assess the potential impact of time-varying unobservable confounds. These models will be estimated for comparisons of employment statuses among all mothers, regardless of their labor force participation histories, and for comparisonsof work conditions among mothers in the labor force. They will be extended to consider interactions between work variables and measures of children's health and behavioral problems, with groupmodeling techniques allowing the comparison of results across various subsamples of mothers definedby their partnership statuses. The ultimate goal of this project is to use what is learned here, in tandem with past NIH-funded work by the investigators, to design a future population study of work-family dynamics among new parents, which captures the general spirit of the R21 mechanism.


Predictors of Achievement from Early Childhood to Adulthood

Principal Investigator: Robert Crosnoe
Additional Investigators: Rachel Gordon, parent project PI, University of Illinois at Chicago
Funded by: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

his project will significantly contribute to the growing body of research on physical attractiveness as a source of social stratification that has wide implications for health, akin to more frequently studied factors like race and gender. Health is an integral component of the approach to this project-as a dimension of physical attractiveness (e.g., weight), as a mechanism by which physical attractiveness has effects on social and academic achievement (e.g., mental health), and because the adult socioeconomic attainment that is expected to reflect histories of physical attractiveness is a fundamental component of lifelong health and health disparities. This project also will provide a practical service to the field by expanding a public use data set so that it can be used to study the role of attractiveness in a wide variety of outcomes, including health behaviors and health disparities. Specifically, the project will create the most comprehensive longitudinal data ever amassed of physical attractiveness from infancy through adolescence by re-coding videotapes that were already gathered at nearly a dozen time points in the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. It will describe trajectories of beauty in this cohort and test important hypotheses derived from an integrative theoretical model put forward in a new book by the investigators. Based on status characteristics and life course theory as well as developmental systems and stigma perspectives, beauty's association with higher achievement is expected to operate through mental health mechanisms, including positive mood, perceived competence, and self esteem. These mental health resources are expected to counteract some of the ways being good looking could distract from schooling (i.e., physical assets might accentuate desires to climb the social ladder as young people move into and through adolescence and its associated peer contexts). Differences in the strength of associations by social location (gender, race/ethnicity, SES), by developmental period (early childhood, elementary, junior, and high school), and by ecological contexts (schools) will also be examined. The results of this project, and the new source of public use data created through the project, will stimulate future developmental, social psychological, and public health research on physical attractiveness as a stratifying force. These results will be written up for academic journal articles and also widely disseminated, which is important given the public, media and policy interest in the topic.


Identifying the Optimal Levels and Timing of Family and School Influences on Child and Youth Development

Principal Investigators: Robert Crosnoe and Elizabeth Gershoff
Funded by: National Science Foundation

Successful development depends on a child receiving adequate resources and experiencing minimal risks, but the timing of when resources and risks have their greatest impacts on children’s lives needs to be better understood. Knowing when contexts have the most influence on development would allow practitioners who work with children and families to better design and time interventions to have their maximum, and most efficient, impact. This project, to be known as the Interdisciplinary Collaborative on Development in Context (ICDC), will identify the optimal levels and timing of key aspects of the two most important contexts in children’s lives, namely their families and their schools, for their development from birth through the transition to adulthood. This knowledge will inform the design of interventions and will guide the direction of public dollars toward the most efficient times for intervention.

The ICDC will focus on three ways of characterizing the influence of family and school contexts on child and youth development: sensitive periods, tipping points, and transitions. Sensitive periods refer to the times in development that are most susceptible to contextual influence and predictive of future functioning. Tipping points are the levels at which a contextual influence affects accelerated, or diminishing, returns. Transitions are major changes in a context that can affect changes in the individual. The ICDC team will analyze data from six national longitudinal datasets that cover multiple stages of the early life course as well as three experimental datasets that will permit stronger conclusions about causal relationships. The team will implement cutting-edge statistical methods that adhere to the best practices across disciplines. Throughout the project, the ICDC will use the best available measurement to examine each part of the conceptual model, replicate models across datasets and cohorts as a means of increasing confidence in results, leverage state-of-the-art methods to capture the dynamic nature of individual development, and consider alternative explanations and specifications in order to increase confidence in causal inferences.


Deadbeat Dads or Debtor's Prison? Jailing for Child Support Nonpayment

Principal Investigator: Jennifer Glass
Additional Investigator: Elizabeth Cozzolino
Funded by: National Science Foundation

Using a mixed methods design, this project explores the frequency, distribution, process, and consequences of jail for child support nonpayment. This dissertation has three aims. The first aim is to provide a quantitative overview of jail for child support nonpayment. To this end, we use the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCW) to analyze who, out of those who owe child support, goes to jail for child support nonpayment on a national level. We augment this national-level picture with county-level jail data from Texas to provide greater detail on what jail for child support nonpayment looks like. The second aim is to understand the processes by which courts decide whom to jail for child support nonpayment. To fulfill this aim, the co-PI will conduct court observation in two counties in Texas to examine jail for child support nonpayment at the jurisdictional level. The third aim is to understand how families experience punitive child support enforcement and what the consequences are. To this end, the co-PI will conduct in-depth interviews with parents who go to court for child support enforcement.


CAREER: Language Brokering and Child Adjustment in Mexican American Children

Principal Investigator: Su Yeong Kim
Funded by: National Science Foundation

This study will examine developmental outcomes for children of Mexican immigrants, a high-risk population with high rates of poverty and low levels of educational attainment. The project aims to understand the mechanisms involved in improving the academic performance of children of immigrants, a growing and significant percentage of America's children, who represent the future of the U.S. workforce. It also focuses on the developmental period of adolescence, a period of transition in which children are susceptible to developing socio-emotional problems that can compromise school performance. This research has the potential to identify risk factors that can be used to inform future preventive intervention work with children of immigrants. Finally, this project will train undergraduate and graduate students who have been traditionally under-represented in the sciences, particularly those of Mexican origin; deliver a curriculum to educate students about the role of immigration, ethnicity, and race in informing child development; and provide workshops, training sessions, and newsletters to educators on the role of language brokering in children's academic functioning.


The Generational Progress of Mexican Americans

Principal Investigator: Stephen Trejo
Additional Investigator: Jeffrey Grogger, parent project PI, University of Chicago
Funded by: Russell Sage Foundation

The intergenerational progress of Mexican immigrants seems to stall after the second generation. This long-standing puzzle may stem from the failure of most surveys to identify true 3rd-generation immigrants, since most surveys lack data on respondents’ grandparents’ place-of-birth. Thus 3rd+ -generation immigrants must be identified by means of self-reports, which opens the door to selective ethnic attrition. Here we analyze data from a nationally representative survey that identifies true 3rd-generation immigrants. We use these data to estimate intergenerational progress between the 2nd and true 3rd generations, the extent of selective ethnic attrition, and models of the intergenerational transmission of economic success.


The New Youth Homelessness: LGBTQ Street Kids in the Urban South

Principal Investigator: Debra Umberson
Additional Investigator: Brandon Robinson
Funded by: National Science Foundation

In this project, The New Youth Homelessness, we bring to the forefront the lived experiences of LGBTQ homeless youth to highlight how homophobia, transphobia, and norms around gender and sexuality contribute to the struggles of many homeless youth today. Issues that LGBTQ homeless youth face have been statistically documented; however, knowledge on the meanings, motivations, and consequences that LGBTQ homeless youth ascribe to their actions and situations is much more limited. The three main goals of this study are to illuminate the pathways into homelessness for LGBTQ homeless youth, their specific needs, and their interactions with other people as being both LGBTQ and homeless. The Co-PI volunteers at a homeless youth drop-in center in Austin, Texas, and at an LGBTQ youth homeless shelter in San Antonio, Texas. We are conducting interviews and field research to uncover the lived realities and distinct issues affecting this population. As the first ethnographic study to qualitatively investigate LGBTQ homeless youths’ lives, this research will have wide-ranging sociological, methodological, and theoretical implications for studies of gender, sexualities, homelessness, health, and youth as well as policy implications for early-life interventions, shelter recommendations, and national policies that address LGBTQ youth populations.


Creating a Sense of Pro-social Purpose around Healthy Eating to Motivate Self-control

Principal Investigator: David Yeager
Additional Investigator: Christopher Bryan, parent project Principal Investigator
Funded by: The Character Lab

This project will develop and test a novel behavioral intervention to help middle school students develop healthy eating habits and resist the temptation of unhealthy foods. It builds on precise randomized field experimental work by our research group. The next important step is to develop a practical tool for school settings: a multi-session classroom workshop designed to create a sense of pro-social purpose around healthy eating and motivate self-control. We willmeasure the effectiveness of this intervention in a randomized, controlled intervention field experiment by unobtrusively tracking students’ school lunch purchases and other related outcomes. In addition to its direct contribution to our understanding of the drivers of healthychoices, it will inform the more general goal of creating pro-social purpose and using it topromote character development among youth. At the end of this project, we aim to have ausable curriculum and set of materials with strong evidence for efficacy, which we can work withCharacter Lab to disseminate in schools.


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