Poverty and internalizing symptoms: The indirect effect of middle childhood poverty on internalizing symptoms via an emotional response inhibition pathway.


Childhood poverty is a pervasive problem that can alter mental health outcomes. Children from impoverished circumstances are more likely than their middle-income counterparts to develop internalizing problems such as depression and anxiety. To date, however, the emotional-cognitive control processes that link childhood poverty and internalizing symptoms remain largely unexplored. Using the Emotion Go/NoGo paradigm, we examined the association between poverty and emotional response inhibition in middle childhood. We further examined the role of emotional response inhibition in the link between middle childhood poverty and internalizing symptoms. Lower income was associated with emotional response inhibition difficulties (indexed by greater false alarm rates in the context of task irrelevant angry and sad faces). Furthermore, emotional response inhibition deficits in the context of angry and sad distracters were further associated with child-report internalizing problems. The results of the current study demonstrate the significance of understanding the emotional-cognitive control vulnerabilities of children raised in poverty and their association with mental health outcomes.