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The Effects of Neighborhood Context and Parenting Factors on Adolescent Mental Health: A Multilevel Investigation Open Access

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The goal of this study was to explore how neighborhood context and parenting factors affect adolescent delinquency and depression. The research provides United States population-level evidence of these effects as emotional and behavioral disorders in youth and adolescence are the most prevalent and costly of all illness with 8.9 billion dollars spent in 2006 (Soni, 2006). It is estimated that 20% of children and adolescents have a diagnosable mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder (The National Research Council and Institutes of Medicine, 2009). Data from waves I and II of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) were used for the analyses and the Add Health Contextual database was used to form the neighborhood groups. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to account for the nested effects of youth and parents within neighborhoods. Results show that there was significant variation in delinquency and depression across United States neighborhoods and higher levels of neighborhood risk correlated with higher levels of both delinquency and depression. Of the expected protective factors, parental attachment emerged as a predictor of lower levels of both delinquency and depression. These relationships also varied significantly across neighborhoods suggesting that the attachment relationship was more protective against negative mental health outcomes in certain neighborhoods. These findings provide support for parenting intervention programs focused on strengthening the parent-child relationship.

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