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Neighborhoods host factors that determine the quality of a child’s development: education, safety, and nutrition. These conditions can vary based on the economic standing of the neighborhood and redlining; typically, these qualities are deteriorated in economically unstable environments and have a negative impact on a child’s growth.
The interaction between co-neighbors is essential for the safety of the neighborhood, to build up trust and break down instability. Neighborhood instability leads to a higher concentration of alcohol, drugs, and guns which increases community violence and supports statistics like “homicide is the leading cause of death among African-American youths” (Trickett, 171). The social element to a neighborhood is how it functions as a community to be social support system that connects people together who live in close proximity. As technology and transportation advanced, people have stopped relying on those around them but instead those they know from outside communities to build relationships. For neighborhoods to be impactive they must be affective on cognitive, social, and emotional levels. Neighborhoods have become residential areas instead of social communities. The cognitive factor of a neighborhood is the mental mapping among its residents who deem the bounds they feel is safe to walk and play, but when trust builds these mental maps expand. When trust builds in a neighborhood, it includes “a sense of mutual help, a sense of community, and an attachment to place.” (Trickett 289).
Neighborhood programs are essential to finding and building this trust among neighbors at least for the interest of their own children to have a safe place to reside. If you have a built trust among neighbors then violence would decrease and accessibility to drugs, alcohol, and weapons would consequently decrease as well. If co-neighbors have enough confidence in each other, then support systems will grow with it whether it be for alcohol abuse, single mothers, financially-struggling college students, and whatever else fits their community’s needs. Financially-stable neighborhoods tend to be richer in neighborhood programs even though they need them less because they have a tendency to not have gangs and the violence that coincides with it. The hope of these neighborhood programs is that it can build community-bonding, family-bonding, and positive childhood development (Trickett, 289). Not only is finding the resources difficult but getting the participation of residents is also difficult because some neighborhoods may be “easier” than others.
When neighborhoods have increased walkability there is more physical activity in the community whether it be walking, playing basketball or riding bikes. However, if an area is deemed unsafe, children will not partake in daily physical activity. Neighborhood walkability correlates with the safety and trust among neighbors as children are given boundaries to where they are allowed to be that can limit their physical activity. Typically, neighborhood walkability overlaps with the social scene between co-neighbors. For example, after growing up in a neighborhood like my own where children are given the boundaries of cycling, scootering and running are usually beyond the caregiver’s supervision but he or she has a trust in her community for the child’s safety. As I grew up in a middle-class neighborhood, these children are not only physically active on their block and in their schools, but also are enrolled in extracurriculars that keep them active such as Gaelic football, Irish dancing, horseback riding, and so many more. If a family does not have the excess funds to enroll their children in extracurriculars like sports and dancing, they most likely do not have a nutritional diet that can afford little to no activity because fresh and organic produce is more expensive than fast food dining. The combination of a poor diet and low physical activity goes hand-in-hand with childhood obesity.
Studies carried out found a positive connection between neighborhood walkability, psychosocial characteristics, and childhood physical activity while comparing demographics. Information gathered by Femke De Meester shows that kids who live in low walkable neighborhoods with many barriers have drastically lower logged physical activity minutes and average activity levels compared to others, as the moderate physical activity minutes gathered were lower in children living in low walkable neighborhoods than those in high walkable neighborhoods. Even if you compare children with many barriers in low walkable neighborhoods and high walkable neighborhoods, there is a 133% difference in physical activity minutes per day (De Meester, 6).
Two dilemmas that can be faced in any upbringing but are exaggerated for financially troubled families are domestic abuse and teenage pregnancy. The quality of environment is statistically lower for mothers who are minors compared to mothers who are in their early twenties, and their children are held at an academic disadvantage. According to collected data, these children scored lower in mathematics, reading recognition and reading comprehension. On the other hand, there is no discrepancy in behavior problems in children of mothers under the age of 18 (Maynard, 151). In these societies, it is difficult to have children stay in school and graduate with a high school diploma during their coming of age stages because they find it more beneficial to join the workforce to financially support their family. Even my own father withdrew from school to support his family and became the paternal figure when his father passed away. This difficulty is exaggerated for teenage mothers because they do not have the comfortable funds to fall back on and instead have to find work, usually that is unskilled and under paid as explained by Maynard:
“There is a strong statistical association between the age at which a woman has her first child and her subsequent socioeconomic well-being. For example, one finds that women who have a baby in their teens are subsequently less likely to complete school, less likely to marry (and thus have a parenting partner), less likely to participate in the labor force, likely to earn less in their jobs, and more likely to rely on various forms of public assistance that are women who do not give birth in adolescence” (Maynard, 55).
When kids are having kids, their socioeconomic and educational paths are no longer equal to their childless counterparts and the time constraint becomes a barricade to healthy relationship building. This can then take a toll on the young woman’s psychological health. These social aspects can impact the child’s psychological health due to relationship disruption and little to no contact or support from the father. Fifty-three percent of African American children live with a single parent, and in those single parent households 49% of the 53% are single mothers (Roberts, 311). In these households there is one less person to check homework, keep up with school activities, reprimand the child for deviant behavior.
More statistics are carried out on the negative impact of single-parent households, but there are also positive statistics to go along with them like the work done by Roberts. These children are more likely to have a more intimate relationship with their parents due to more conversation, and children from single-parent households tend to have the same sexual activity as those from dual-parent households. After studies were gathered in 2009 composed by Shani R. Roberts, it was discovered that children who grow up in single-parent homes have higher educational aspirations that those who grow up with two or more parental figures. There was also a correlation between education goals and sexual activity. Students who were educationally-focused were less sexually active (Roberts, 315). Presumably, this is because they prioritize their time toward academics instead of romantic relationships, and the fear of teen pregnancy as a roadblock to higher education can come into play as it may have for their own parent.
Increased personal stress in low-income households, typically with single parents who have poor parent-child relationships are more likely to face domestic abuse (Trickett, 144).
Robert L. Hampton explains that children of mothers who face interpersonal violence from their co-parent, spouse, or significant other are less likely to receive as much affection because of the mental distress the mother faces, and records of this are highest in the African American community (51). These mothers are also likely to follow through with their motherly instincts when the abusive significant other is around the children to become more protective, which builds a wall from any type of relationship arises from the co-parent and their child even though this is a positive feature. Since these mothers go through so much physical and emotional distress, they are less likely to be helicopter parents but may use psychological displacement towards the child and use physical punishment while reprimanding. If the mothers do not have any economic ties to the co-parent, then the child may have mobilization during their childhood in search of a new safer home.
In search of a resolution to domestic abuse and teen pregnancy, African American women are less likely to go through legal routes such as restraining orders from the abuser or go to shelters where they may face racism. Meanwhile, they are most likely to participate in support groups of fellow African-American mothers who are also victims to domestic abuse because of the shared ethnic relationship and a built trust in their community. Research gathered on the subject argues my belief that neighborhood programs build a trust in a community can help intervene on a child’s development for a positive outcome. Statistics gathered from crisis hotlines, shelters, and legal aids embedded in these neighborhoods do not support community interactions as effective means to helping domestic abuse victims. The most effective resolution were support groups that were able to give these women a backbone of encouragement and self-esteem that helped reduce interpersonal violence, or build enough confidence for these women to become self-supportive (Hampton, 51-54).
An interactive means to help low-income neighborhoods have a decrease in teenage pregnancy is to have sexual health clinics in their educational aspect of the community. Avoiding teen pregnancy, can help decrease high school withdrawal or poorly-skilled careers for young women. Young men and women having free access to contraception in a safe place and a clinical environment if necessary, answers the health needs of the community. These actions have been taken in Chile to reduce the gender gap in education especially in poverty-stricken neighborhoods by providing necessary sexual education with access to contraception and confidently in clinics for those over the age of 14 to build a trust in their health system (Obach, 187-190).
Everything in a neighborhood has a domino effect. If there is a rise in gang violence, then arms and drugs become more accessible that builds distrust in neighbors and brings down the safety of the community. When there is a lack of safety, then children’s outdoor physical activity becomes more limited and restricts proper nutrition. When there is a rise of weapons and drugs in the district, substance abuse becomes more common and domestic abuse along with it. Building trust in one’s surroundings with programs to fall back on implements safety and security of education, physical activity, and healthy childhood development to stop the domino effect.
- De Meester, Femke, et al. “Do Psychosocial Factors Moderate the Association between Neighborhood Walkability and Adolescents’ Physical Activity?” Social Science & Medicine, vol. 81, Mar. 2013, pp.1-9.EBSCOhost
- Hampton, Robert L. Interpersonal Violence in the African American Community: Evidence-Based Prevention and Treatment Practices. Springer, 2006.
- Maynard, Rebecca A. Kids Having Kids: Economic Costs and Social Consequences of Teen Pregnancy. Urban Institute Press, 1997.
- Obach, Alexandra et al. “Intersectoral Strategies between Health and Education for Preventing Adolescent Pregnancy in Chile: Findings from a Qualitative Study.” Health Expectations, no. 2, 2019, p. 183. EBSCOhost.
- Roberts, Shani R., et al. “Positive Youth Development among African American Adolescents: Examining Single Parents as a Factor.” Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community, vol.39, no. 4, Oct. 2011, pp. 310-319. EBSCOhost.
- Shonkoff, Jack P. From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Child Development, Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development. National Academy Press, 2000.
- Trickett, Penelope K. Violence against Children in the Family and the Community. 1st ed., American Psychological Association, 1998.
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