Office of Epidemiology and Research, Division of Research

Advancing Applied MCH Research

(SDAS) How Parenting Modifies Neighborhood Risks Related to Low-Income Children's Health

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Project Number: R40 MC 09719
Grantee: Tufts University
Project Date: 1/1/2007

Final Report

(SDAS) How Parenting Modifies Neighborhood Risks Related to Low-Income Children's Health Final Report (PDF) Exit Disclaimer

Principal Investigator

Tama Leventhal, Ph.D.
Associate Research Scientist
105 College Avenue
Medford, MA  02155
Phone: (617) 627-3455


  • Perinatal/Infancy (0-12 months)
  • Toddlerhood (13-35 months)
  • Early Childhood (3-5 years)
  • Middle Childhood (6-11 years)
  • Adolescence (12-18 years)


  • Hispanic/Latino


Although the compromised health of children living in this country's poor, urban neighborhoods is well documented (Jencks & Mayer, 1990; Kawachi & Berkman, 2003; Leventhal & Brooks-Gunn, 2000), researchers have paid scant attention to variability in children's health and health-related behaviors within low-income, urban neighborhoods. The study's objective is to examine ways in which positive parenting behaviors may buffer children from the detrimental consequences of neighborhood structural and social conditions (beyond poverty) on poor health and health-related behaviors among low-income, urban families. Variations in children's health and health-related behaviors are explored during two critical developmental transitions: from early childhood to school entry and from early to late adolescence. This proposed study addresses goals of MCHB's Strategic Research Issues by investigating disparities in health outcomes among a vulnerable population of low-income, predominantly racial/ethnic minority children. Understanding the protective role of parenting within high-risk settings is important to the design of effective health-promoting interventions among this vulnerable population. The conceptual framework is informed by ecological models of child health and development (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 1998). Ecological models emphasize the importance of considering child health and development as evolving within an interrelated set of proximal to distal contexts, which themselves interact with each other. To test hypotheses regarding parenting's modifying influence on associations between neighborhood context and children's health and health-related behaviors, investigators will conduct a secondary analysis of 3 waves of data from "Welfare, Children and Families: A Three City Study." This data set follows a random sample of 2,400 low-income children from low-income neighborhoods, half of them aged 0 - 4 and half aged 10 - 14, over 6 years. Study dependent variables include: children's internalizing and externalizing behavior problems; achievement test scores (for children >= 3 years); and, delinquency (for youth >=10 years). The study's key independent variables pertain to parenting (e.g., maternal warmth/support, harshness/discipline, provision of stimulation, and behavioral control) and neighborhood context (e.g., 2000 US Census estimates for racial/ethnic composition, residential stability, and extreme poverty; collective efficacy; physical and social disorder, and safety). Given the longitudinal, neighborhood-clustered design, this study will employ 3-level multilevel models using Hierarchical Linear Modeling software (Raudenbush & Bryk, 2002). Analyses will investigate Parenting X Neighborhood interactions on between- and within-individual differences; the latter provides a stronger design because it examines effects over time within individuals holding potential unmeasured characteristics constant. The proposed study is innovative and improves upon previous research in several capacities: an emphasis on within group disparities in child health in low-income urban neighborhoods in a sample with adequate variability; use of a longitudinal, multilevel framework; examination of a broad range of parenting behaviors; focus on developmental differences; inclusion of Latino families; and use of multiple; independently assessed measures on dependent and independent variables.


Listed is descending order by year published.

Roche KM, Ghazarian SR, Little TD, Leventhal T. Understanding links between punitive parenting and adolescent adjustment: The relevance of context and reciprocal associations. J Res Adolesc. 2011 Jun;21(2):448-460.

Leventhal, T. Dupéré, V., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2009). Neighborhood influences on adolescent development. In R. M. Lerner & L. Steinberg (Eds.), Handbook of adolescent psychology (3rd ed.) (pp. 411-443). New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Roche K. Leventhal T. Beyond neighborhood poverty: family management, neighborhood disorder, and adolescents' early sexual onset. J Fam Psychol. 2009 Dec;23(6):819-27.


Parenting, Neighborhood, Social & Emotional Development, Health Disparities

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