Socioeconomic Context, Social Support, and Adolescent Mental Health: A Multilevel Investigation

  • Richard G. Wight
  • Amanda L. Botticello
  • Carol S. Aneshensel
Original Article

This study examined whether the impact of contextual-level socioeconomic disadvantage on adolescent mental health is contingent upon individual-level perceptions of social support. Data are from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), a panel survey of a nationally representative United States sample (analytic N=18,417) of students in 7th through 12th grade. Effects of social support and social context on both internalizing problems (depressive symptoms) and externalizing problems (minor delinquency and violent behavior) are analyzed. Contextual-level socioeconomic disadvantage is positively associated with depressive symptoms, negatively associated with minor delinquency, and not directly associated with violent behavior. High perceived support from family, friends, and other adults offsets poor mental health, but is most protective in areas of low socioeconomic disadvantage. The mental health benefits of perceived social support are dampened in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas, compared to advantaged areas. Results suggest that interventions targeting only individual- or family-level processes within disadvantaged contexts may be inadequate at stemming psychological distress among adolescents.


internalizing externalizing social support contextual 



This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH 60923, Carol S. Aneshensel, PhD, Principal Investigator). This research uses data from the Add Health project, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry (PI) and Peter Bearman, and funded by grant P01-HD31921 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to the Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies. Persons interested in obtaining data files from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health should contact Add Health, Carolina Population Center, 123 West Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2524 (


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard G. Wight
    • 1
  • Amanda L. Botticello
    • 2
  • Carol S. Aneshensel
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Community Health SciencesUCLA School of Public HealthLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.UCLA Department of Community Health SciencesLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.UCLALos AngelesUSA

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