• Sustained Stressors and Scarce Support: Risk Factors for Adolescent Psychopathology in Single-Mother Families

      Alloy, Lauren B.; Olino, Thomas; Kendall, Philip C.; Heimberg, Richard G.; Giovannetti, Tania; O'Hayer, Catherine V. (Temple University. Libraries, 2019)
      Single-mother families represent the second most common family structure, with one in four children raised by single mothers. Children of single-mother families are at greater risk than children from two-parent families to experience internalizing and externalizing psychopathology, with differences attributed to systemic disadvantages inherent to single motherhood. The current study hypothesized that established risk factors (low income, negative parenting, maternal depression, and neighborhood crime) would predict greater rates of psychopathology in adolescents of single mothers than those of partnered mothers via exposure to proximal risk factors (elevated adolescent stress and reduced emotional support). In a community sample of adolescents and their mothers (N = 485, 46% single mother, 48% White) assessed over the course of two years, adolescents of single mothers were more likely than those of partnered mothers to experience prospective depressive symptoms and externalizing disorders. Although the hypothesized proximal risk factors did not differ across family structures, adolescent children of single mothers were more likely to experience stressors independent of the adolescent’s behavior. Additionally, single-mother families were more likely to be of low socioeconomic status, live in neighborhoods high in violent crimes, and employ negatively-controlling parenting. Importantly, these factors were significantly interdependent, suggesting compounded risk for youth mental illness in single-mother families that highlights the extent of their disadvantages. Youth of single mothers were more likely to experience prospective depressive disorders and symptoms via exposure to elevated negatively-controlling parenting. Despite elevated rates of psychopathology and distal risk factors, our proposed model of risk only was partially supported, suggesting single-mother families remain resilient despite exposure to various risk factors. Clinical implications and study limitations are discussed.