This chapter describes the Family Life Project, a large-scale longitudinal study that chronicles the lives of African American and non-African American children and their families living in two poor rural areas of the US: Appalachia and the Black South. The breadth of the Family Life Project data allows us to expand the previous literature on rural poverty and to highlight the notion that the effects of poverty are not limited to low levels of income, but are rather fused with several “correlated constraints” that co-occur with poverty: low maternal education, low job prestige, non-standard work hours, single parenthood, residential instability, and neighborhood safety. We use a cumulative risk perspective as a comprehensive way to describe the life in rural poverty and the disproportionate burden it puts on rural families as they navigate day-to-day life. We also look at two examples of parenting—the quality of mothers and fathers language input and the quality of mothers and fathers emotion talk—as we examine (1) parenting as a mediating link in the relation between cumulative risk and children’s literacy skills, and (2) the role of fathers in the process of child development. (Author abstract modified)
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