The Role of School and Peers in Overcoming Early Family Adversity

Karl G. Hill, University of Washington
Todd I. Herrenkohl, University of Washington
J. David Hawkins, University of Washington
Robert D. Abbott, University of Washington

An extensive literature has demonstrated developmental difficulties stemming from early family adversity. Fewer studies have examined the roles school and positive peers can play in helping children overcome early family adversity. In this study, early family adversity is operationalized through indicators assessed in elementary school (including poor family management, low bonding to parents, parental substance use) and retrospectively at age 24 (abuse and neglect). We then examine the relationship between early family adversity and positive and negative outcomes at ages 21 and 24 (high school completion, engagement in school or working, involvement in clubs/activities, family bonding and depression, crime, alcohol abuse/dependence, drug abuse/dependence, respectively). Finally, we examine the extent to which positive school and peer experiences moderate the relationship between early family adversity and these outcomes. Data in the study are from the Seattle Social Development Project (SSDP). SSDP is a longitudinal study of youth development and behavior that has followed prospectively a panel of Seattle public school students from age 10 to 24. Implications for the development of intervention programs will be addressed.

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Updated 05/20/2006