Neighborhood Conditions and Adolescent Psychological Well-Being: The Mediating Effects of Individual Perception, Family Processes, and Peer Group Association

Glen C. Tolle, Jr., Texas A & M University
Howard B. Kaplan, Texas A & M University

This paper presents empirical findings from a study on the relationship between heighborhood conditions and individual variation in adoledscent psychological well being. Census and crime data were used to operationalize various aggreagate level variables, as suggested by social disorganization theory, which were then attached to geo-coded adolescents who provided individual level data. The goal of the study was to identify the degree to which the adolescents' perceptions of their neighborhood mediated its effects on their psychological wellness. It was hypothesized that adolescent psychological outcomes would be affected by the shaping of their subjective perceptions of both the physical and social conditions of their neighborhoods as being ordered or disordered. The more disordered the neighborhood was perceived to be the more common would be the symptoms of low self-esteem, depression, aniety and rejection, which characterize a poor state of psychological well being. It was further hypothesized that family processes and peer group associations would also mediate the effects of neighborhood conditions and would also influence the adolescents' perceptions of their neighborhood. Issues of contextual and compositional effects are discussed and limitations of the study are addressed.

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Updated 05/20/2006