Are all risks equal? Early experiences of poverty-related risk and children's functioning

Amanda L. Roy, C. Cybele Raver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using cumulative risk and latent class analysis (LCA) models, we examined how exposure to deep poverty (income-to-needs ratio <0.50) and 4 poverty-related risks (i.e., single-parent household, residential crowding, caregiver depression, and multiple life stressors) in preschool is related to children's future difficulty in school in a longitudinal sample of 602 Head Start-enrolled, low-income families. Results from the LCA revealed 4 risk profiles: low risk, deep poverty and single, single and stressed, and deep poverty and crowded household. Tests of measurement invariance across racial/ethnic groups established that, although patterns of risk are similar across groups (i.e., risks covary in the same way), the prevalence of risk profiles differs. African American families were overrepresented in the "deep poverty and single" profile while Latino and White families were overrepresented in the "deep poverty and crowded" profile. Finally, children's third grade functioning in 3 domains (i.e., academic performance, behavior problems, and self-regulatory skills) was predicted using a cumulative risk index and LCA-identified risk profiles. Both approaches demonstrated that children who experienced higher levels of risk in preschool had worse school performance than children with low levels of risk. However, LCA also revealed that children who experienced "single and stressed" family settings had more behavior problems than low-risk children while children who experienced "deep poverty and crowded" family settings had worse academic performance. The results indicate that all risks are not equal for children's development and highlight the utility of LCA for tailoring intervention efforts to best meet the needs of target populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-400
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • Academic outcomes
  • Deep poverty
  • Latent class analysis
  • Poverty-related risks
  • Self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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