Social risks and psychological adjustment: a comparison of African American and South African children

Child Dev. 1999 Nov-Dec;70(6):1348-59. doi: 10.1111/1467-8624.00099.


In the United States, race is highly associated with social risk factors such as poverty and family structure that may account by themselves for developmental outcomes often attributed to race alone. This cross-national study assesses the effects of social risks on adjustment of racially similar groups of 306 African American and 625 South African 6-year-olds. Poverty and gender were confirmed as risk factors but single female headship was not. Moreover, poverty and gender posed less risk for South African than for African American children. Poverty placed children at risk for immaturity, hyperactivity, and difficulty in peer relations. Boys were more likely to have behavior problems than were girls. African Americans exhibited higher rates of emotional symptoms but lower rates of bullying, destructiveness, and social rejection than did South Africans. African Americans, particularly the males, scored higher on the opposition and hyperactivity scales than did South Africans. Distinctive social contexts and cultural resources may account for differences in adjustment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Black People
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / diagnosis
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Poverty / psychology
  • Psychosocial Deprivation*
  • South Africa
  • United States