Impacts of Family Rewards on Adolescents’ Mental Health and Problem Behavior: Understanding the Full Range of Effects of a Conditional Cash Transfer Program

Pamela A. Morris, J. Lawrence Aber, Sharon Wolf, Juliette Berg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This paper examines the effects of Opportunity New York City–Family Rewards, the first holistic conditional cash transfer (CCT) program evaluated in the USA, on adolescents’ mental health and problem behavior (key outcomes outside of the direct targets of the program) as well as on key potential mechanisms of these effects. The Family Rewards program, launched by the Center for Economic Opportunity in the Mayor’s Office of the City of New York in 2007 and co-designed and evaluated by MDRC, offered cash assistance to low-income families to reduce economic hardship. The cash rewards were offered to families in three key areas: children’s education, family preventive health care, and parents’ employment. Results that rely on the random assignment design of the study find that Family Rewards resulted in statistically significant reductions in adolescent aggression and rates of substance use by program group adolescents as well as their friends, relative to adolescents in the control condition, but no statistically significant impacts on adolescent mental health. One possible mechanism for the benefits to adolescent behavior appears to be time spent with peers, as fewer adolescents in the program group spent time with friends and more adolescents in the program group spent time with family. Findings are discussed with regard to their implication for conditional cash transfer programs as well as for interventions targeting high-risk youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)326-336
Number of pages11
JournalPrevention Science
Volume18
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

Keywords

  • Adolescence
  • Conditional cash transfers
  • Peers
  • Substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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