Many studies have shown higher rates of problems for children living in low SES families than for children living in higher SES families. It has been hypothesized that neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage (NSD) contributes to the relatively high rates of problems found for low SES children.
Because low SES families cannot afford to live in advantaged neighborhoods, NSD may explain or add to the risk factors associated with low SES per se. To test the hypothesis that NSD is associated with youths’ problems after controlling for family SES, a team of Dutch researchers sought to assess an entire birth cohort of 2,587 youths who had been born in Rotterdam, Holland, during a particular year and who were still living there when they were 10 to 12 (“Time 1”) and 12 to 14 (“Time 2”) years old (Schneiders et al., 2003). Parents completed the CBCL and the youths completed the YSR. For each of Rotterdam’s 74 residential neighborhoods, NSD was scored from a composite of data on the percentage of youths enrolled in education; adults receiving welfare; residents with non-Dutch nationality; unemployment; residents moving out of the neighborhood in a 1-year period; households with married couples and/or children; mean income; and mean age of residential buildings.
Using multi-level regression analyses, Schneiders et al. found that NSD was significantly associated with CBCL and YSR Internalizing, Externalizing, and Total Problems scores at both Time 1 and Time 2, even after controlling for the SES (parental education and occupation) of each youth’s family. In addition, after controlling for Time 1 problem scores, plus family SES, Schneiders et al. found that NSD predicted Time 1 to Time 2 increases in Total Problems scores on the YSR at p <.05 and on the CBCL at p <.10. Having found no significant interactions of NSD with family SES or with child gender, Schneiders et al. concluded that “NSD was associated with child and parent reported behavioural problems, over and above the effect of individual level SES.
Furthermore, longitudinal results suggested that NSD may lead to an increase in problem occurrence from late childhood into early adolescence. We found no evidence that NSD effects differed in magnitude for children from high compared with low SES families, or for boys compared with girls. Living in a disadvantaged neighbourhood thus represents an independent risk factor for children” (p. 702).
Reference: Schneiders, J., Drukker, M., van der Ende, J., Verhulst, F.C., van Os, J., & Nicholson, N.A. (2003). Neighbourhood socioeconomic disadvantage and behavioural problems from late childhood into early adolescence. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 57, 699-703.