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Impact of Neighborhood Social Conditions and Household Socioeconomic Status on Behavioral Problems Among US Children


We examine the impact of neighborhood social conditions and household socioeconomic status (SES) on the prevalence of parent-reported behavioral problems among US children aged 6–17 years. The 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health was used to develop a factor analytic index and a dichotomous measure of serious behavioral problems (SBP) in children. The outcome measures were derived from 11 items capturing parents’ ratings of their children on a set of behaviors, e.g., arguing, bullying, and feelings of worthlessness, depression, and detachment. Dichotomous measures of perceived safety, presence of garbage/litter, poor/dilapidated housing, and vandalism were used to assess neighborhood social conditions. Household SES was measured using parental education and household poverty status. Logistic and least squares regression models were used to analyze neighborhood and household socioeconomic effects on the continuous and binary outcome measures after controlling for sociodemographic and psychosocial factors, including behavioral risk factors, family cohesion, social participation, and geographic mobility. Higher levels of behavioral problems were associated with socially disadvantaged neighborhoods and lower household SES. Adjusted logistic models showed that children in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods (those characterized by safety concerns, poor housing, garbage/litter in streets, and vandalism) had 1.9 times higher odds, children in poverty had 3.7 times higher odds, and children of parents with less than high school education had 1.9 times higher odds of SBP than their more advantaged counterparts. Improvements in neighborhood conditions and household SES may both help to reduce childhood behavioral problems.

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Correspondence to Gopal K. Singh.

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The views expressed are the authors’ and not necessarily those of the Health Resources and Services Administration or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Human Subjects Review: No IRB approval was required for this study, which is based on the secondary analysis of a public-use federal database.

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Singh, G.K., Ghandour, R.M. Impact of Neighborhood Social Conditions and Household Socioeconomic Status on Behavioral Problems Among US Children. Matern Child Health J 16, 158–169 (2012).

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  • Neighborhood conditions
  • Household socioeconomic status
  • Behavioral Problems Index
  • Social participation
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Physical inactivity