Abstract

Psychological distress was investigated in a group of parents who were current and former recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and a group of parents never enrolled in TANF. The study focused on two reported symptoms of distress: depressive and anxiety symptoms. Analysis incorporated cross-sectional data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, 1996 panel. Results demonstrate that receiving or having received TANF benefits worsened parents' psychological distress. On the other hand, becoming employed reduced parents' psychological distress. Furthermore, participants' physical health state was significantly and negatively related to their psychological distress. Reliance on general assistance (before or after leaving TANF) was associated with psychological distress, although other social support variables (such as availability of child care, Medicaid, food stamps, and so forth) had no significant effect on psychological distress among current or former TANF recipients. Implications of the findings for policy and intervention are discussed.

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