A Multi-Level Assessment of Students' Feelings of Safety: Modeling Differential Effects of Neighborhood and School Social Organization

Thomas Gannon-Rowley, University of Chicago
David S. Kirk, University of Chicago

Few studies of contextual effects attempt to model the effects of multiple contexts that may work in conjunction or in opposition vis--vis the outcome examined. Methodological advances and newly available data facilitate a study of multiple contexts to differentiate proximal and distal influences on outcomes. Using multi-level modeling and merged data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods and the Chicago Public Schools, we estimate effects of school and neighborhood social process and structure on student feelings of safety. We hypothesize that positive feelings of safety are increased by higher levels of attachment and social organization in school as well as higher levels of neighborhood social organization. Preliminary findings suggest that significant variation exists across schools and neighborhood clusters, though nearly all of the variation is found within schools. Local neighborhood social organization appears insignificant as a predictor and mediator of feelings of safety, suggesting the importance of school attachment and structure to this aspect of students' mental health.

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Updated 05/20/2006