Reference Work Entry

Handbook of Child Well-Being

pp 1307-1334

Community and Place-Based Understanding of Child Well-Being

  • Claudia J. CoultonAffiliated withMandel School of Applied Social Sciences, Case Western Reserve University Email author 
  • , James C. SpilsburyAffiliated withCenter for Clinical Investigation, Case School of Medicine


Where children live matters for their well-being. The neighborhood and community context has an immediate bearing on what children experience day to day and consequences for their long-term life chances. The quality of local public services, the prevalence of crime and violence, the quality of the natural and built environment, the influences of peers and social networks, and the proximity to jobs and resources can all act to either diminish the well-being of children and families or enhance their prospects. A substantial body of social science research finds that growing up in disinvested, distressed, or socially and economically isolated neighborhoods is associated with an increased risk of many adverse outcomes for children, including school failure, poor health, victimization, delinquency, teen child-bearing, and youth unemployment (Brooks-Gunn et al. 1997; Ellen et al. 2001; Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn 2003). Yet even though place-based disparities in child well-being are well documented and of significant public policy concern, the complex dynamics that connect individuals and neighborhoods have made it challenging to fully understand the important processes or to formulate effective action to improve the community context for child well-being.