Public Policy, Duke University
Cohort Six Fellow

Academic Mentor
Anna Gassman-Pines
Assistant Professor, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University

Policy Mentor
Michael Becketts
Director, Durham County Social Services

Research Interests
Harsh parenting; financial stress; community-level economic conditions; social safety net policy; cross-country comparison

Areas of Expertise

Child Welfare and Foster Care Systems, Economic Supports for Families, Families and Family Systems, Maternal Health, Difference in Difference Modeling, Longitudinal Data Analysis, Regression Modeling, Structural Equation Models, Low-Income Families and Individuals, Instrumental Variables

Anika Schenck-Fontaine is a third-year doctoral student at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, concentrating in Developmental Psychology. Drawing on theories of developmental psychology, sociology, and economics, her research explores the influence of subjective financial stress related to poverty, community-level economic conditions, and income inequality on parenting behavior. Prior to coming to Duke University, Anika worked at the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University. Anika received her MA in Public Policy from Johns Hopkins University in 2009.


Economic Strain and Harsh Parenting: Why Parents’ Experience of Economic Downturns Matters

Emerging evidence suggests that economic downturns negatively impact children in families that are not financially affected by the downturn. However, policies to alleviate the costs of economic downturns are aimed only at families who sustained direct financial losses and do not protect children in families who were not financially impacted. To develop policy approaches that can support all families during and following economic downturns, it is necessary to understand the mechanisms by which economic downturns can impact families other than direct financial losses. The purpose of this dissertation is to add to our knowledge of the community-wide effects of economic downturns on parenting behavior by testing the unique role of subjective financial stress, which has traditionally been considered endogenous to objective financial hardship. Through three independent papers that build on theory from psychology, sociology, and economics, this dissertation will: (1) identify whether financial stress has a unique effect on parenting behavior over and above the impact of objective hardship; (2) test whether economic downturns moderate the association between financial stress and parenting behavior; and (3) examine whether the association between financial stress and parenting behavior differs in countries with weaker and stronger social safety nets.