Black Mothers' Perceptions about Urban Neighborhood Safety and Outdoor Play for their Preadolescent Daughters

Two girls hanging off a playset in a school yard during recess.

Neighborhood perceptions of safety affect mothers’ decisions to let their daughters engage in outdoor play in urban neighborhoods, contributing to physical inactivity among preadolescent Black females.

The Issue:

Citing the unpredictability of neighborhood violence, perception of neighbors, and having to leave the neighborhood to play safely, mothers chose to keep their daughters inside for safety.

Key Findings

  • Thirty-one of 32 mothers did not let their daughters engage in any outdoor play during the school year due to unpredictable violence related to drugs and gangs, and lack of safe play areas.

  • Possible solutions to address safety included: more armed security presence, more neighborhood recreational spaces for children, and a home with a private yard.


A hostile and unpredictable neighborhood contributed to lack of physical activity amongst a population of adolescent girls who are raised by a single mother in impoverished households. Limitations included: daughters were not interviewed to corroborate the reports, and the results cannot be generalized to other populations.

About the Study:

Individual interviews and focus groups were conducted in the West Ward Village of Newark, N.J. between January and July 2010. Thirty-two Black mothers who lived with their daughters (aged 9–13 years) participated.