Subjective Social Status and Psychological Distress in Mothers of Young Children

Nicole Michelson, Jenna L. Riis, Sara B. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction Perceptions of social standing have increasingly well-documented relationships with health. Higher subjective social status (SSS) is associated with better psychological well-being among women, and mothers of newborns. The relationship between SSS and psychological distress among mothers of young children, however, is largely unknown. SSS may provide insight into aspects of maternal functioning that are relevant to parenting capacity, as well as insight into future health; in addition, SSS is brief, and may be perceived as less intrusive than other measures of socioeconomic status or mental health. We evaluated the relationship between SSS and psychological distress among mothers of 5-year-old children from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Methods One hundred and sixty-two mothers of 5-year old children, who participated in a study of child self-regulation, completed surveys that assessed sociodemographics, mental health, and perceived social support. The MacArthur Scale of SSS used pictures of ten-rung ladders to assess respondents’ social position in relation to the US (SES ladder) and their community (community ladder). Quantile regression models were used to assess the relationship between maternal psychological distress (perceived social support, depressive symptoms, anxiety) and the ladders (individually and together), adjusting for maternal age, race, education, and number of children. To examine whether the SSS–health relationships differed by race, the models were also stratified by race. Results Community ladder ranking was positively associated with social support (β = 1.34, SE = 0.33, p < .001), and negatively associated with depressive symptoms (β = −1.34, SE = 0.52, p < .05). SES ladder ranking was positively associated with social support (β = 1.17, SE = 0.52, p < .05). Findings in the full sample were driven by more robust relationships between psychological distress and community SSS among Black/African-American mothers. Discussion The findings suggest that perceived social standing in one’s community is associated with maternal psychological well-being. Community SSS may be particularly influential for Black/African-American mothers’ well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2019-2029
Number of pages11
JournalMaternal and child health journal
Volume20
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

Keywords

  • Disparities
  • Maternal psychological distress
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Subjective social status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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