Lower Social Class Does Not (Always) Mean Greater Interdependence: Women in Poverty Have Fewer Social Resources Than Working-Class Women

Nicole M. Stephens, Jessica S. Cameron, Sarah S.M. Townsend

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Social resources (i.e., number and nature of relationships with family and friends) are an important, yet largely unrecognized, feature of the sociocultural contexts of social class that influence psychological functioning. To assess the nature and content of social resources, we conducted semistructured interviews with American women living in poverty (n = 21) and working-class (n = 31) contexts. In contrast to previous research, which demonstrates that lower social class contexts foster greater social connection and interdependence than middle-class or upper-class contexts, this study revealed that poverty constitutes a clear cutoff point at which reduced material resources no longer predict higher levels of social connection, but instead social isolation. Our interview data revealed that women in poverty had fewer connections to family and friends, experienced greater difficulty with trust, and reported more challenges involving relationships compared with working-class women. These findings extend psychological theories regarding how social class shapes psychological functioning and have important implications for understanding the maintenance and reproduction of poverty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1061-1073
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
Volume45
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2014

Keywords

  • culture
  • inequality
  • poverty
  • relationships
  • self
  • social class
  • social integration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology

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