Reproducing inequality: The role of self-control, social support, and maternal education in the development of human and economic capital
Abstract: The development of human and economic capital in the transition to
adulthood may set individuals on different life trajectories as the skills, knowledge, and
income developed during this period may be foundational to their later life outcomes.
Self-control (the deliberate regulation of impulses, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors) in
adolescence may be related to the development of th... read moreese forms of capital as it may help
individuals to pursue long-term goals, create stable relationships, and engage in
employment. It is likely that higher self-control helps individuals find, obtain, and
maintain employment because it lowers the potential for distraction and disengagement from
the job search process and may allow individuals who are currently employed or in school to
regulate their behavior to meet the demands of those contexts. However, recent research on
self-control shows that contextual factors (e.g., social relationships and environments)
may alter whether and to what extent self-control relates to developmental outcomes. In
particular, the relation between self-control and human (e.g., skills, knowledge, and
capabilities) and economic (e.g., money) capital may be mediated by whether youth feel
supported by family and friends. These perceptions of support may relate to greater
earnings and lower receipt of welfare dollars as parents and friends may transmit economic,
social, and human capital to the individual. Furthermore, in a time of growing inequality
the relation between education and outcomes is strengthened. Maternal education levels may
enhance or constrain the resources available to her children, initiating processes of
cumulative advantage and disadvantage that lead to differences in human, social, and
economic capital for her children; and moderating the relation of self-control and
perceptions of social support to these outcomes. Drawing on data from the Project for Human
Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN), for my dissertation research, I used
structural equation modeling to answer three research questions. First, I examined the
relation between self-control in adolescence and income in the transition to adulthood.
Second, I asked whether and to what extent the relations between self-control and income
were mediated by perceptions of social support from family and friends. Third, I
investigated whether and how this relation was moderated by maternal education levels using
multi group methods. Finally, I examined individuals' experiences during the transition to
adulthood (e.g., school, work, disconnection). These experiences during the transition to
adulthood reflect young adults' human capital development as they may be engaged in
activities (e.g., school) that that may differentially influence their later life outcomes
but that are not reflected in measures of income. Results indicated that self-control in
adolescence did not predict income during the transition to adulthood, with a notable
exception of the model among children of mothers with less than high school/some high
school education only. Furthermore, findings suggested that perceptions of support from
family and friends did not mediate this relation. Analyses further indicated that there
were differences in young adults' income and participation in human capital generating
activities (e.g., working, in school) by maternal education levels. Finally, results
suggested that differences in these processes were raced and gendered. This dissertation
adds to the literature by examining under what circumstances and for whom self-control
relates to positive developmental outcomes and furthers understandings of how inequality is
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2017.
Submitted to the Dept. of Child Development.
Advisor: Jayanthi Mistry.
Committee: Tama Leventhal, Jonathan Zaff, and Richard Reeves.
Keyword: Developmental psychology.read less