Parenting in Poverty: Attention Bias and Anxiety Interact to Predict Parents’ Perceptions of Daily Parenting Hassles

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Abstract

Research has long acknowledged the centrality of parents’ subjective experiences in the caregiving role for the organization of parenting behaviors and family functioning. Recent scientific advances in cognitive process models and in the neurobiology of parenting indicate that parenting is shaped in part by conscious and nonconscious cognitive processes. This study extends a growing literature on neurocognitive models of parenting by exploring the extent to which attention processes in parents operate independently and interactively with intrapsychic processes, proximal interpersonal stressors, and the larger socioeconomic context to predict perceptions of parenting hassles in primarily low-income Latino/a parents of young children living in urban areas of concentrated disadvantage (N = 185). Analyses indicated that parent reports of anxiety, intimate partner violence, and perceptions of financial hardship each uniquely predicted parents’ perceptions of daily parenting hassles. Parents’ attentional bias toward threat interacted with anxiety symptoms such that parents experiencing high levels of attention bias toward threat in combination with high levels of anxiety reported significantly more daily parenting hassles. Findings from the current study provide insight into the ways in which neurocognitive processes affect one aspect of parenting, with implications for programs and policies designed to support parenting for families in poverty.

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