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Title: More Month Than Money: An Analysis of the Association Between Material Hardship and Child Telomere Length in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study
Authors: Moeckel, Camille
Advisors: Xie , Yu
Department: Sociology
Certificate Program: Global Health and Health Policy Program
Class Year: 2020
Abstract: I analyze the association between material hardship across childhood and early adolescence and telomere length at ages nine and fifteen. I examine how both instrumental social support and housing assistance protect against the potential adverse effects of material hardship on telomere length. Telomeres, repetitive nucleotide sequences at the ends of chromosomes that protect genetic material, serve as biomarkers of the effect of stress over time. For families, economic stressors include material hardship, which is the inability to meet basic needs. Research on child telomere length thus far has neglected material hardship and focused more broadly on poverty. In order to fill this gap, I utilize data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, an optimal source of nationwide data on material hardship. I use ordinary least squares regression analyses to test two models hypothesized by life course theory: risk accumulation and sensitive period. I find that material hardship before age nine is associated with shorter telomere length at age nine, which points to a risk accumulation model. However, only material hardship experienced before age three is associated with shorter telomere length at age fifteen, which points to a sensitive period model. The relationship between accumulated material hardship at age three and telomere length at age fifteen is positively moderated by public housing assistance. Qualitative interview data from a nested, purposive sample is utilized to further understand the coping strategies used by low-income families to escape material hardship.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Sociology, 1954-2020
Global Health and Health Policy Program, 2017-2020

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