Effects of cumulative risk on behavioral and psychological well-being in first grade: Moderation by neighborhood context

Julie Lima, M. Caughy, Saundra M. Nettles, Patricia J. O'Campo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study builds upon existing research by examining whether risk indices for child psychological well-being behave in the same way in different types of neighborhoods. Specifically, we sought to determine if neighborhood characteristics acted to exacerbate or, alternatively, to buffer risk factors at the family and/or child level. Families with a child entering first grade in Fall 2002 were recruited from Baltimore City neighborhoods, defined as census block groups. This study included 405 children, and data came from an interview with the primary caregiver and an assessment of the first grader. The dependent variables were externalizing behavior and internalizing problems. A family risk index consisting of 13 measures, and a child risk index consisting of three measures were the main independent variables of interest. We examined the effects of these indices on child psychological well-being and behavior across two neighborhood characteristics: neighborhood potential for community involvement with children and neighborhood negative social climate. Results of multivariate analyses indicated that cumulative family risk was associated with an increase in both internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. Perceived negative social climate moderated the effect of family risks on behavior problems such that more risk was associated with a larger increment in both externalizing behavior problems and psychological problems for children living in high versus low risk neighborhoods. These findings further emphasize the importance of considering neighborhood context in the study of child psychological well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1447-1454
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Behavioral adjustment
  • Child mental health
  • Neighborhoods
  • USA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)


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