Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 41, Issue 12, pp 1613–1627 | Cite as

Social Competence in Late Elementary School: Relationships to Parenting and Neighborhood Context

  • Margaret O’Brien Caughy
  • Luisa Franzini
  • Michael Windle
  • Patricia Dittus
  • Paula Cuccaro
  • Marc N. Elliott
  • Mark A. Schuster
Empirical Research


Despite evidence that neighborhoods confer both risk and resilience for youth development, the existing neighborhood research has a number of methodological limitations including lack of diversity in neighborhoods sampled and neighborhood characteristics assessed. The purpose of this study was to address these methodological limitations of existing research and to examine the relationship of neighborhood structural and social characteristics to family-level social processes and teacher-reported social competence during early adolescence. The study sample of 3,624 fifth graders (51 % girls) was ethnically diverse, including roughly even proportions of non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, and Hispanic youth. Neighborhood measures included economic disadvantage derived from the U.S. Census, physical and social disorder obtained by direct observation, and social capital from parental reports. Family-level social processes included parent reported family cohesion and youth reported maternal and paternal nurturance. We found that neighborhood factors significantly associated with youth social aggression and social competence but not social withdrawal, after controlling for individual demographic characteristics and parenting factors. There was limited evidence of moderation of family influences by neighborhood characteristics as well as the moderation of neighborhood effects by children’s gender. Neighborhood physical disorder was associated with increased social aggression among boys but with increased social withdrawal among girls. Implications of the study’s findings for research on neighborhoods and adolescent development and the development of preventive interventions are discussed.


Neighborhoods Parenting Social competence Middle childhood 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margaret O’Brien Caughy
    • 1
  • Luisa Franzini
    • 6
  • Michael Windle
    • 2
  • Patricia Dittus
    • 3
  • Paula Cuccaro
    • 1
  • Marc N. Elliott
    • 4
  • Mark A. Schuster
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.University of Texas School of Public HealthDallasUSA
  2. 2.Emory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Centers for Disease Control and PreventionAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.RANDSanta MonicaUSA
  5. 5.Children’s Hospital BostonHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  6. 6.University of Texas School of Public HealthHoustonUSA

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