Early Adolescent Perceptions of Neighborhood: Strengths, Structural Disadvantage, and Relations to Outcomes

Dawn P. Witherspoon, Diane Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Considerable evidence shows the detriments of neighborhood social disorganization for urban youth. Researchers have focused less on potential neighborhood strengths or on the interplay of neighborhood perceptions and objective neighborhood characteristics. The authors examined the presence and perception of positive and negative neighborhood characteristics among urban ethnically diverse families, the similarity in early adolescents’ and mothers’ perceptions, and the association between sociodemographic characteristics, perceptions, and youth outcomes. The sample consisted of 608 ethnically diverse early adolescents and 128 mother–adolescent dyads. Adolescents’ reports of positive and negative neighborhood characteristics were empirically distinct and moderately correlated. Mothers and adolescents viewed their neighborhoods differently. Census measures of neighborhood disadvantage were positively associated with adolescents’ and mothers’ perceptions of negative neighborhood characteristics but differently associated with positive neighborhood characteristics. Neighborhood characteristics were differentially associated with youth outcomes. The authors discuss the importance of the neighborhood context, particularly positive neighborhood characteristics, for urban families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)866-895
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Early Adolescence
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 13 2014



  • Early adolescents
  • Neighborhoods
  • Perceptions
  • Structural disadvantage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science

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