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Supporting low-income families with young children: Patterns and correlates of service use

By Julie Spielberger and Sandra J. Lyons


Comprehensive, integrated service systems are increasingly viewed as a promising strategy for supporting healthy family functioning and child development in low-income families, but have shown variable impacts. This paper reports early findings from a longitudinal study of voluntary service use by a sample of low-income families with young children. Mothers (N = 531) recruited soon after their newborns' birth in 2004 and 2005 from targeted communities in Palm Beach County, Florida are being followed for 8 years to assess service needs, service use, family functioning, and child well-being. A cluster analysis of services used in the second year revealed four distinct patterns of service use: a low-service group receiving mainly health care and food assistance, two moderate-service groups, and a high, multi-service group. These patterns were associated with families' demographic characteristics, nativity, health status, social support, year 1 maternal functioning, and previous service experiences. However, there were no significant differences between the service pattern groups with respect to year 2 maternal depression and parenting practices.Service use Children Family Social support Maternal functioning Immigrants

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