American Journal of Community Psychology

, Volume 52, Issue 3–4, pp 302–312 | Cite as

Social Cohesion and Self-Rated Health: The Moderating Effect of Neighborhood Physical Disorder

  • Eileen E. S. Bjornstrom
  • Margaret L. Ralston
  • Danielle C. Kuhl
Original Paper


Using data from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey and its companion datasets, we examined how neighborhood disorder, perceived danger and both individually perceived and contextually measured neighborhood social cohesion are associated with self-rated health. Results indicate that neighborhood disorder is negatively associated with health and the relationship is explained by perceived cohesion and danger, which are both also significant predictors of health. Further, individually perceived cohesion emerges as a more important explanation of self-rated health than neighborhood-level social cohesion. Finally, neighborhood disorder and perceived cohesion interact to influence health, such that cohesion is especially beneficial when residents live in neighborhoods characterized by low to moderate disorder; once disorder is at high levels, cohesion no longer offers protection against poor health. We interpret our findings as they relate to prior research on neighborhoods, psychosocial processes, and health, and discuss their implications for intervention efforts that address disorder in urban communities.


Neighborhoods Self-rated health Social cohesion Disorder 



This research was supported by a grant from the American Sociological Association Fund to Advance the Discipline. This research is based on data from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey which is funded by a grant R01 HD35944 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to RAND in Santa Monica, California. For further information on L.A.FANS, go to The authors wish to thank Joan Hermsen for her helpful comments on a previous version of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Society for Community Research and Action 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eileen E. S. Bjornstrom
    • 1
  • Margaret L. Ralston
    • 2
  • Danielle C. Kuhl
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  3. 3.Department of SociologyBowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA

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