Date of Award

Summer 2020

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Nora E. Charles, Ph.D.

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Sara Jordan, Ph.D.

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Bonnie Nicholson, Ph.D.

Committee Member 3 School



Adolescent externalizing behaviors have consistently been related to both poverty and family dysfunction within the psychological literature; however, the distinction between the effects of objective poverty and perceived poverty on adolescent behavior is relatively new. The current study aimed at understanding the relationship between adolescents’ perceived poverty and their engagement in externalizing behaviors. The sample for this study is 194 at-risk youths in a military-style residential program. Participants completed a series of questionnaires addressing perceptions of their family’s financial status, family chaos, the number of daily routines practiced within their home, and history of externalizing behaviors. Additionally, information about participants’ community of origin and records of their disciplinary infractions was be retrieved from the youths’ files following program completion. It was hypothesized that greater perceptions of poverty will be associated with higher numbers of disciplinary infractions and externalizing behavior. Further, it was hypothesized that this relationship will be moderated by family chaos and daily routines. Hypotheses were partially supported indicating that daily routines and family chaos played a more important role in self-reported externalizing behaviors; whereas poverty played a more significant role in participants receiving disciplinary infractions. Furthermore, poverty had an inverse relationship with disciplinary infractions which was contradictory to hypotheses. Results contribute to the complex literature base regarding the literature surrounding family environment, poverty, and problematic behavior in youth, as well as provide insight into future avenues of intervention for at-risk adolescents.