Neighborhood Perceptions and Well-being across the Early Life Course
Tyndall, Benjamin Dylan
Neighborhoods structure the availability of resources necessary for the healthy functioning of their residents. Because neighborhoods vary greatly in the amount of physical, social, and economic resources available, they have been implicated in creating disparities in health and well-being based on levels of neighborhood disadvantage and disorder. Drawing on social capital, social disorganization, and stress process frameworks, this dissertation examines processes linking neighborhood perceptions to a variety of well-being outcomes during three periods in the early life course: childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. The dissertation consists of three papers which each focus on a single life stage. The data for these studies come from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 Child and Young Adult surveys. Paper 1 explores the relationship between maternal perceptions of neighborhood disorder and child distress. In this paper, I find that disordered neighborhoods are associated with higher levels of child distress through maternal distress and strained mother-child relationships. Paper 2 examines how childhood neighborhood perceptions influence the growth of self-esteem and mastery, two aspects of self-concept. I find that these early experiences are related to lower levels of both self-esteem and mastery, but tend not to alter growth trajectories. Nonetheless, these early experiences of disorder appear to establish low levels of self-concept that last through young adulthood. Paper 3 extends the finding from Paper 2 by showing that childhood perceptions of disorder are associated with more depressive symptoms, lower self-rated health, and more arguments between spouses and partners in young adulthood. This relationship appears to be mediated by neighborhood impacts on self-concept. However, these findings were not supported for two other outcomes: alcohol consumption and positive relationship interactions. The dissertation demonstrates how neighborhoods can influence well-being in different ways at each stage in the early life course. Further, this research supports the assertion that early experiences of neighborhood disadvantage can accumulate throughout life to create worse well-being for those continuously exposed to neighborhood disorder.