, Volume 86, Issue 4, pp 538-550
Date: 03 Apr 2009

Neighborhood Violence and its Association with Mothers’ Health: Assessing the Relative Importance of Perceived Safety and Exposure to Violence

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Abstract

This paper presents a cross-sectional study examining the influence of neighborhood violence on multiple aspects of mothers’ health. While the influence of neighborhood violence on health is important to understand for all populations, mothers are especially important as they play a key role in protecting their children from the consequences of violence. Three hundred and ninety-two Baltimore City mothers of children 5 years and younger completed a self-administered survey that included questions about perceptions of their safety as well as their personal experiences with neighborhood violence. Separate models were run to compare the relationship between each measurement of neighborhood violence and five diverse health-related determinants and outcomes: self-reported health status, smoking, exercise, average hours of sleep a night, and sleep interruption. Controlling for mother’s age, child’s age, maternal education, and marital status, mothers with high exposure to neighborhood violence were twice as likely to report poorer health, smoking, never exercising, and poor sleep habits. Maternal perception of neighborhood safety was not related to any of the assessed health-related determinants and outcomes. This study emphasizes the importance of measuring exposure to neighborhood violence rather than solely assessing perceived safety. Neighborhood violence was a common experience for mothers in this urban sample, and should be considered by health professionals in trying to understand and intervene to improve the health of mothers and their children.