Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 44, Issue 6, pp 1194–1207 | Cite as

The Role of the Residential Neighborhood in Linking Youths’ Family Poverty Trajectory to Decreased Feelings of Safety at School

  • Carolyn Côté-Lussier
  • Tracie A. BarnettEmail author
  • Yan Kestens
  • Mai Thanh Tu
  • Louise Séguin
Empirical Research


Although disadvantaged youth are more likely to be victimized at school, victimization only partly explains their decreased feelings of safety at school. We applied a socioecological approach to test the hypotheses that the experience of poverty is associated with decreased feelings of safety at school, and that residential neighborhood features partly mediate the relationship between poverty and feeling less safe at school. This study draws on the Québec Longitudinal Study of Child Development (QLSCD) which began in 1998 with a representative population-based cohort of 2,120 5-month old infants (49.1 % female) and their primary caregiver. The study also includes measures of ego-centred residential neighborhood exposures (based on a 500 m circular buffer zone surrounding the family’s residential postal code) derived from a spatial data infrastructure. We used latent growth modeling to estimate youth’s family poverty trajectory from age 5 months to 13 years, and structural equation modeling to test our hypotheses. The results suggest that youth experiencing chronic and later-childhood poverty felt less safe at school in part because they lived in neighborhoods that their parents described as being disorderly (e.g., demarked by the presence of garbage, drug use and groups of trouble-makers). These neighborhoods also tended to have less greenery (e.g., trees, parks) and more lone-parent households. Neighborhood features did not help explain the relationship between early-childhood poverty and feeling less safe at school. The findings suggest that targeting residential neighborhood features such as greenery and disorder could improve youth’s felt safety at school, particularly for those experiencing chronic and later-childhood poverty.


Poverty trajectory Youth School Safety Residential Neighborhood 



This study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Grant Number 00309MOP-123079. Data were collected by the Institut de la Statistique du Québec, Direction Santé Québec. The IRSPUM and CRCHUM received infrastructure funding from the Fonds de la Recherche en Santé du Québec. CCL is funded by a Fonds de Recherche du Québec -Société et Culture fellowship. TB is supported by a FRQS Junior 2 Research Scholar award. YK holds a Young Investigator Award from Fonds de Recherche du Québec – Santé and a CIHR Applied Public Health Chair on Urban Interventions and Population Health. MTT was funded by a young investigator fellowship from the IRSPUM and was the recipient of a Young Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, the former name of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, at the time of the contribution. These funding agencies were not involved in the study design, data analyses, data interpretation or manuscript writing and submission processes. These findings were presented at the 81st conference of the Association Francophone pour le Savoir (ACFAS) and the 5th Annual Workshop of the International Network for Research on Inequalities in Child Health (INRICH).

Author Contributions

CCL conceived the study, performed the statistical analyses, participated in the design and interpretation of the data, and drafted the manuscript; TB participated in the design of the study and in the interpretation of the data, and helped to draft the manuscript; YK participated in data collection and critically revised the manuscript; MTT participated in data collection and critically revised the manuscript; LS participated in the design of the study, interpretation of the data and critically revised the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carolyn Côté-Lussier
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tracie A. Barnett
    • 2
    • 3
    • 8
    Email author
  • Yan Kestens
    • 1
    • 4
  • Mai Thanh Tu
    • 1
    • 5
    • 6
  • Louise Séguin
    • 1
    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
  1. 1.Département de médecine sociale et préventive, Faculté de médecineUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada
  2. 2.Centre de recherche du Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU) Sainte-JustineMontréalCanada
  3. 3.Department of Exercise ScienceConcordia UniversityMontréalCanada
  4. 4.Centre de recherche du Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM), Tour VigerMontréalCanada
  5. 5.Institut de recherche en santé publique de l’Université de Montréal (IRSPUM)Université de MontréalMontréalCanada
  6. 6.International Network for Research on Inequalities in Child Health (INRICH)MontréalCanada
  7. 7.Léa-Roback Research Centre on Social Inequalities in HealthMontréalCanada
  8. 8.INRS-Institut Armand-FrappierLavalCanada

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