Effects of Neighborhood Characteristics on British Children’s Antisocial Behavior

Much of the research on the development of antisocial behavior focuses on child and family variables. However, a growing literature considers the possible additional effects of neighborhood variables. Effective analysis of interplays among child, family, and neighborhood variables require good measures of each set of variables, plus large, representative samples of participants and complex statistical models. Odgers et al. (2009) carried out such analyses of the development of antisocial behavior in a national sample of 2,232 British twins who were assessed with the CBCL and TRF at ages 5, 7, and 10. CBCL and TRF scores on the Delinquent Behavior (now called Rule-Breaking Behavior) and Aggressive Behavior syndromes were combined to measure antisocial behavior. Parents’ antisocial behavior was assessed with the Young Adult Behavior Checklist (YABCL; predecessor of the Adult Behavior Checklist). Other family variables included child maltreatment, adult domestic violence, and family socioeconomic disadvantage. Neighborhood deprivation vs. affluence was determined from British census data. Neighborhood collective efficacy was assessed with a survey mailed to residents of the neighborhoods where the twins’ families resided. Scores were computed from responses to questions regarding how neighbors would deal with neighborhood problems and the degree of social cohesion and trust in the neighborhood.

After controlling for child and family variables, the authors found significantly higher scores for antisocial behavior among children in deprived than in affluent neighborhoods at ages 5, 7, and 10. Although scores declined with age in both kinds of neighborhoods, they declined significantly less for children in deprived than affluent neighborhoods. In addition, children who lived in deprived neighborhoods with high collective efficacy scores had significantly lower antisocial behavior scores at age 5 then children in deprived neighborhoods with low collective efficacy scores. However, in affluent neighborhoods, collective efficacy scores were not significantly associated with children’s antisocial behavior scores. The authors concluded that “community affluence and also community-level social processes-namely, collective efficacy-may serve as protective factors for children as they enter school. Such community characteristics may be prime candidates for population-level intervention efforts” (p. 955).

Reference: Odgers, C. L., Moffitt, T.E., Tach, L.M., Sampson, R. J., Taylor, A., Matthews, C.L., & Caspi, A. (2009). The protective effects of neighborhood collective efficacy on British children growing up in deprivation: A developmental analysis. Developmental Psychology, 45,942-957.