4 years ago

Perceived neighborhood quality, family processes, and trajectories of child and adolescent externalizing behaviors in the United States

Externalizing behavior problems are common among children and adolescents, and have considerable negative impacts on their long-term health and wellbeing. Substantial evidence supports a link between neighborhood conditions and externalizing behaviors. However, the timing of neighborhood effects on the developmental course of externalizing behaviors and the role of family and peer processes in shaping neighborhood effects remains unclear. Objective The current study aims to examine the relationship between perceived neighborhood quality and trajectories of child externalizing behaviors in a U.S. nationally representative cohort, focusing on the timing of neighborhood effects and the role of family and peer processes in mediating these effects. Methods The study included 3563 children who participated in three consecutive waves of Child Development Supplement of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics in 1997, 2002 and 2007. In a latent growth curve model (LGCM), we estimated trajectories of externalizing behaviors and the effects of perceived neighborhood quality on the trajectories, using parental, family and peer processes as potential mediators. Results At baseline, better neighborhood quality was moderately associated with fewer externalizing behaviors among seven-to twelve-year-olds, but was not associated with externalizing behaviors among children six years and younger. During follow-up, better neighborhood quality was associated with small decreases in externalizing behaviors, primarily mediated by lower levels of parental distress and family conflict. Conclusions This study suggests that better perceived neighborhood quality contributes to fewer externalizing behaviors throughout childhood and adolescence, and that parental distress and family conflict are the main mediators of these effects. Given the pervasiveness of exposure to adverse neighborhood conditions, efforts to reduce concentrated poverty and improve neighborhood environments may improve children and adolescents’ mental health at the population level.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0277953617304604

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