Study objective: This study investigates whether neighbourhood socioeconomic disadvantage may contribute to child behavioural and emotional problems, beyond the effects of parental socioeconomic status. It also examines the influence of neighbourhood disadvantage on changes in the frequency of behavioural problems from late childhood into early adolescence.
Design and setting: The study was conducted in a large community sample in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. An index of neighbourhood socioeconomic disadvantage was calculated for each of the city’s 74 neighbourhoods. Multilevel regression analysis estimated effects of neighbourhood disadvantage and individual variables (parental socioeconomic status, child’s gender, and age) on behavioural problems reported by children (Youth Self-Report) and parents (Child Behavior Checklist) and on changes in these scores over a two year follow up.
Participants: A cohort of all children born in 1978 and living in Rotterdam. Of those eligible, 73% (n=2587) participated in the first measurement (T1), at 10–12 years; 71% of the T1 respondents participated again two years later (T2), at 12–14 years.
Main results: Neighbourhood disadvantage was associated with higher Total, Internalising, and Externalising Problems, as assessed with both the Child Behavior Checklist and the Youth Self-Report, even after controlling for parental socioeconomic status. Neighbourhood disadvantage also seemed to contribute to increases in Total Problems over the follow up.
Conclusions: Living in a disadvantaged neighbourhood is associated with greater behavioural problems and may lead to an exacerbation of problems as children move from childhood into adolescence. Public health interventions to improve child mental health must take the neighbourhood environment into account.
- neighbourhood disadvantage
- behavioural problems
- multilevel regression
- NSD, neighbourhood socioeconomic disadvantage
- SES, socioeconomic status
- CBCL, Child Behavior Checklist
- YSR, Youth Self-Report
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↵* Mean disposable income per inhabitant in the five poorest neighbourhoods was 44% of that in the five wealthiest neighbourhoods in 1995, and 49% in 2001 (Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics).