School-aged children often turn to their primary caregiver, such as a mother, father, or other close relative, for support in dealing with difficult situations. This cross-sectional, school-based study examined whether urban, lower-income African American caregivers' stressful life events, affective symptoms, and perceived support from their social network were associated with their children's perceptions of support from and conflict with the caregiver. Forty-six African American children aged 8-12 years and a primary caregiver were recruited from a partnering Midwestern United States elementary school and separately interviewed. Results showed that caregivers' report of greater support from their social network across a variety of domains was associated with children's report of greater instrumental support from their caregiver. Caregivers' report of greater attachment to members of their social network was associated with children's report of greater emotional support from their caregiver. Implications of findings for mental health promotion among children and families are discussed.
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The present findings, when viewed alongside the larger literature, suggest that African American caregivers' resources for support are linked to the well-being of their children. Previous research has demonstrated that caregivers' perceived support from their social network is associated with children's social and cognitive competence ( Burchinal et al., 1996; Shook et al., 2010 ) and affective symptoms ( Taylor et al., 2008 ), as well as parent/child communication ( Hoagwood et al., 2010 ). The present study's novel contribution is to demonstrate that caregivers' perceived support from their social network is associated with children's perceived support from their primary caregiver. When African American caregivers perceived they were well supported by their social network, children perceived greater instrumental support from caregivers. Instrumental support represents caregivers' ability to assist their children across a variety of tasks ( Wills et al., 1992 ). Support from others may allow caregivers to provide instrumental support to their children, which may in turn help children develop tangible skills to navigate stressful situations throughout life ( Alliman-Brissett, Turner, & Skovholt, 2004 ). This may be true regardless of the form that supportive interactions take within caregivers' social networks. In the present study, caregivers' perceptions of greater attachment, reassurance of worth, guidance, reliable alliance, and social integration were all associated with children's perceptions of greater instrumental support from their caregiver. In contrast, only caregivers' perceived attachment to their social network (e.g., emotional closeness) was significantly associated with children's perceptions of emotional support from their caregiver. Caregivers' close emotional relationships may assist them in forming a similar bond with their children. No associations between caregivers' perceived support from their social network and children's perceptions of conflict with their caregiver were found. It may be that caregivers differ in the degree to which they draw upon support from their network to prevent and handle conflict with their child, leading to no overall association between caregivers' perceived social support and children's perception of conflict with their caregiver.
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd.
- African Americans
- Perceived parental support
- Social networks