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Examination of Social Disorganization and Pluralistic Neighborhood Theories with Rural Mothers and Their Adolescents

NCJ Number
Journal of Youth and Adolescence Volume: 40 Issue: 9 Dated: September 2011 Pages: 1243-1253
Dawn Witherspoon; Susan Ennett
Date Published
September 2011
11 pages
This study examined census and perception-based measures of neighborhood characteristics on rural youth and their mothers.
Neighborhoods matter for youth; yet, most literature focuses on neighborhood deficits rather than strengths. To understand how best to capture neighborhoods, this study used census- and perception-based measures of neighborhood characteristics as suggested by social disorganization and pluralistic neighborhood theories, respectively, to determine the association between structural characteristics and perceptions of positive and negative neighborhood characteristics. The ethnically diverse (59 percent White and 34 percent African-American) sample (N = 1,414) consisted of early adolescents (53 percent female) and their mothers. The authors found that participants perceived distinct positive and negative neighborhood characteristics. For adolescents and mothers, neighborhood structural characteristics were positively associated with risk perceptions (e.g., physical and social disorder) but differently associated with positive neighborhood characteristics. In addition, participants perceived their neighborhoods differently (e.g., adolescents perceived less informal social control but more cohesion than their mothers). The authors discuss the importance of the neighborhood context, particularly positive neighborhood characteristics, for rural families. (Published Abstract)