College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Fall 11-25-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Kathryn Grant, Ph.D

Second Advisor

Bernadette Sanchez, Ph.D

Third Advisor

Jocelyn S. Carter, Ph.D.


Living in urban poverty has been linked to numerous negative conditions that disproportionately expose low-income urban youth and their families to severe and chronic stressors (Collins et al., 2010; DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, and Smith, 2012; Sznitman, Reisel, and Romer, 2011). Research has consistently shown a strong relationship between these stressors and numerous negative outcomes that can impact an adolescent emotionally, behaviorally, and academically (Conger et al., 2002). This dissertation is focused on the area of academic achievement, an outcome consistently found to be negatively impacted by poverty (Rouse and Fantuzzo, 2009). Based on Bronfenbrenner’s model of bio-ecological human development (Bronfenbrenner and Morris, 1998; Bronfenbrenner and Evans, 2000) and a similar model by Perkins and Graham-Bermann (2012), executive functioning was hypothesized to mediate the relationship between poverty-related stress and academic achievement. Measurement models of poverty-related stress and executive functioning were further hypothesized to have adequate fit with the current sample data.

Given the two time-point design of the study, recommendations for analysis of partial mediation by Cole and Maxwell (2003) were followed. Results revealed support for the measurement model of executive functioning, however the measurement model of poverty-related stress was not supported. Given the inadequate fit of the poverty-related stress latent variable with sample data, partial mediation analysis was conducted with the stress variable of major life events and daily hassles. Results of partial mediation analysis revealed support for the direct effect of major life events/daily hassles on executive functioning skills. However, as executive functioning did not have a significant direct effect on grade point average. Therefore, evidence of partial mediation was not supported in this study. In addition to primary study hypotheses, age and gender group differences were also examined. Findings indicate the need for future research of specification in the relationship between stressors and executive functioning skills.

SLP Collection