Household income histories and child mental health trajectories

J Health Soc Behav. 2005 Dec;46(4):359-75. doi: 10.1177/002214650504600404.


Although it is widely accepted that low household income is associated with worse child mental health, less is known about whether income histories, often differentiated into stable and dynamic components, also matter. Using longitudinal data from the Child Supplement of the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, comprising the repeated measures of children ages 4 to 14 from 1986 to 1998 inclusive, I estimate generalized linear mixed models to evaluate the influence of household income histories on child depression and antisocial behavior over time. Results indicate that, at initial interview, low household income is associated with higher levels of depression and antisocial behavior; subsequent improvements in household income reduce child mental health problems. Further, the effect of initial household income on the rate of change in child depression attenuates as children grow older, whereas for antisocial behavior the effect of initial household income becomes stronger over time. These findings highlight the importance of understanding the ways in which children are influenced by their families' income histories.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Family*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • United States / epidemiology