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Press release

Paying it forward: Next Generation Effects of a Family Cash Transfer on the Home Environment

Washington, DC | 20 March 2024

A studyopens in new tab/window in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP), published by Elsevier, followed up on children of families who received cash transfers 20 years later when they became parents themselves. This study, led by a team at the University of Vermont, Duke University, and multiple other institutions, found that their home environments were largely free of mental illness, substance use and violence in their late 30’s, similar to low-risk families that had not received cash transfers.

The study used data from the Great Smoky Mountain Study, a study of 1,420 participants that began close to 30 years ago in a largely rural area of the Southeastern US to study childhood mental health. The participants were interviewed annually throughout their childhood. The study included a large group of American Indian children from a tribe in the study area. Four years after the study began, the tribe opened a casino. Half of the income generated from the casino was provided to tribal members as a direct cash payment. On average, this amounted to $5,000 a year. Other families living in the counties near the tribe did not receive transfers. This created an opportunity to study the effects of family cash transfers on children’s functioning.

Initially, children whose parents had received the extra income displayed reduced levels of common behavioral problems as compared to families that did not receive transfers. [DK(L1] These behavioural traits were observed for the study’s participants into adulthood. Here, participants whose families had received the cash transfer achieved an extra year of educational attainment, committed fewer crimes, and had fewer problems with alcohol and cannabis in young adulthood. Later at age 30, these participants reported fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, improved physical and financial health, and reduced involvement in illegal behaviors. The study participants in the study are now in their late 30s and many of them are now parents.

The current study evaluated whether the cash transfers their parents received 20 years ago might change the environment they provided for their own children. Ten different aspects of participants’ home environment were assessed including parental mental health, substance use, exposure to violence, and food insecurity. Those parents whose families received cash transfers did not have lower levels of these indicators than families who did not receive cash transfers. Instead, both groups were generally providing low-risk environments that would support their children’s growth and development.

This is the first study evaluating the impact of family cash transfers on the next generation.

Dr. Copeland, lead author from the University of Vermont, said “The most important finding was the children in these families were able to start their lives with advantages and opportunities that were not available to their parents and without many of the snares that often hold children back.” Family financial interventions similar to the one studied here may be useful tools for reducing disparities in early life risk.

Notes for editors

The article is "Intergenerational Effects of a Family Cash Transfer on the Home Environment," by William E. Copeland, PhD, Guangyu Tong, PhD, Lilly Shanahan, PhD, W. Andrew Rothenberg, PhD, Jennifer E. Lansford, PhD, Jennifer W. Godwin, PhD, Anna Rybinska, PhD, Candice L. Odgers, PhD, Kenneth A. Dodge, PhD( It appears in Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, volume 63issue 3(March 2024), published by Elsevier.

Copies of this paper are available to credentialed journalists upon request; please contact Marianna Purgato, PhDat [email protected].


Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatryopens in new tab/window (JAACAP) is the official publication of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. JAACAP is the leading journal focusing exclusively on today's psychiatric research and treatment of the child and adolescent. Published twelve times per year, each issue is committed to its mission of advancing the science of pediatric mental health and promoting the care of youth and their families.

The Journal's purpose is to advance research, clinical practice, and theory in child and adolescent psychiatry. It is interested in manuscripts from diverse viewpoints, including genetic, epidemiological, neurobiological, cognitive, behavioral, psychodynamic, social, cultural, and economic. Studies of diagnostic reliability and validity, psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacological treatment efficacy, and mental health services effectiveness are encouraged. The Journal also seeks to promote the well-being of children and families by publishing scholarly papers on such subjects as health policy, legislation, advocacy, culture and society, and service provision as they pertain to the mental health of children and families.

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William Copeland,PhD

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