Uncovering Multidimensional Poverty Experiences in Shaping Children’s Socioemotional Trajectories during the First 6 Years of Schooling

Liwei Zhang, Wen Jui Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The extant literature has attested to the importance of poverty on child well-being generally using a unidimensional approach. Researchers have yet to establish solid evidence on how multiple dimensions of poverty (e.g., depth, volatility, and spells of exposure) might be associated with children’s socioemotional well-being during their early school years. Building upon Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological systems theory, this study used latent class analysis to identify poverty patterns by incorporating multiple dimensions of poverty and investigated the relationship between multidimensional poverty patterns and children’s socioemotional trajectories from kindergarten through fifth grade. Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998–1999 (ECLS-K), a longitudinal dataset featuring a nationally representative cohort of children in the United States (N ≈ 20,090), the analysis identified seven poverty groups. Each group exhibited a unique poverty or economic pattern that incorporates the three poverty dimensions. Growth-curve results indicate that multidimensional poverty patterns were significantly associated with externalizing and internalizing behaviors both at kindergarten and over time by fifth grade. Children with the acutest form of economic deprivation—extreme poverty, volatile income, and multiple spells of poverty exposure—were reported to have the worst outcomes. The significant variations in children’s socioemotional trajectories due to different poverty patterns highlight the importance of poverty reduction and prevention strategies corresponding to those patterns for optimal effect. This study suggests a focus not just on helping families exit poverty temporarily, but on improving their economic security as a way to nurture children’s socioemotional well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1837-1855
Number of pages19
JournalFamily Process
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • ECLS-K
  • Externalizing behaviors
  • Internalizing behaviors
  • Latent class analysis
  • Multidimensional poverty
  • Socioemotional Trajectories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Uncovering Multidimensional Poverty Experiences in Shaping Children’s Socioemotional Trajectories during the First 6 Years of Schooling'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this