A neighborhood’s problems (crime, graffiti, drug activity) and its level of social organizing (people feeling connected, having shared values) independently predict a range of positive and negative adjustment outcomes in children. Whether neighborhood aspects pose a risk or serve as protective factors depends on a child’s temperament and their sensitivity to neighborhood influences.
These researchers examined three temperament characteristics—fear, irritability and impulsivity—and sought to determine which of those made children more responsive to the characteristics of their neighborhoods.
To gather data, they interviewed an economically and racially diverse sample of Seattle children (grades 3 through 5) and their families. Among their findings:
In neighborhoods with higher levels of crime and disorder, fearful children may be more likely to either behave in a socially incompetent manner or avoid socialization and the enriching experiences it can bring.