Unpacking the link between socioeconomic status and behavior problems: A second-order meta-analysis

Kevin M. Korous, Jose Causadias, Robert Bradley, Suniya Luthar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Substantial evidence links socioeconomic status to internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. However, it is unclear how these two categories of behavior problems relate to specific components of socioeconomic status (e.g., income, educational attainment, and occupational prestige) or overall social status. In this study, we conducted a second-order meta-analysis to estimate the average associations of income, education, occupation, and overall socioeconomic status with internalizing and externalizing behavior problems, and to examine if age, sex, and race/ethnicity moderated these associations. Our systematic search in PsycINFO, PubMed, Google Scholar, Web of Science, and ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global identified 12 meta-analyses (17% unpublished), including approximately 474 primary studies and 327,617 participants. In relation to internalizing, we found small average associations with income, r+ = -.18, 95% confidence interval (CI) [-.31, -.04], and education, r+ = -.12, 95% CI [-.15, -.09]. In relation to externalizing, we found smaller associations with income, r+ = -.02, 95% CI [-.15,.10], education, r+ = -.03, 95% CI [-.16,.10], and overall socioeconomic status, r+ = -.05, 95% CI [-.11,.01], but these CIs included zero. Only sex composition of the samples moderated the latter association. We provide recommendations for best practices and future research directions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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