A growing literature on small-area effects has linked neighborhood conditions with indicators of child well-being. This paper addresses some of the challenges in identifying and understanding these linkages, with a focus on children’s definitions and perceptions of their neighborhood geographies. The study included 60 children aged 7 to 11 and one of their parents in five neighborhoods (census tracts). Neighborhood maps were elicited from both children and parents. Child and parent maps showed only a modest correlation, suggesting that children have their own conceptions of their neighborhoods. Also, home range was not equated with children’s definitions of neighborhood boundaries. Accurate and meaningful measures of neighborhood, including child-centered measures, are needed. Child-centered neighborhood indicators are an important complement to the measures that are increasingly available for standard neighborhood units. The neighborhood is a potentially important context for improving child well-being by developing area-based programs to address spatial inequality in child well-being.
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We thank Margaret Cooney, Meghan Halley, and Nadia El-Shaarawi for their assistance with the qualitative data. Also, we are grateful to the families who agreed to participate in the study.
This study was supported by a grant from the William T. Grant Foundation (Korbin), and by grant RR024990 from the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD. No real or potential conflicts of interests are associated with this work.
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Spilsbury, J.C., Korbin, J.E. & Coulton, C.J. Mapping Children’s Neighborhood Perceptions: Implications for Child Indicators. Child Ind Res 2, 111–131 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-009-9032-z