Neighborhood Conditions and Parenting Practices as Explanations for Race Differences in Adolescent Externalizing Behaviors
Walters, Eban J.
Although used widely in psychological research, race and ethnicity are amorphous and ill-defined constructs, lack adequate reliability and validity, and are rarely suitable as explanatory variables or mechanisms of psychological processes. Existing data regarding the relation of race and ethnicity to youths’ externalizing behaviors are inconsistent and conflicting, which highlights their inability to adequately explain or predict human behavior. The variables for which race and ethnicity act as proxies should be tested to identify the mediators directly linking race and ethnicity with developmental outcomes. After reviewing data and ecological theory positing that neighborhood factors may account for group differences, because of vast disparities between the communities in which many Black and White Americans live, I present three hypotheses proposing neighborhood mediation of race and parenting effects on adolescent externalizing behavior. Findings were: (a) there were race differences in externalizing behavior across raters; (b) neighborhood conditions were associated with race but not with externalizing behaviors; and (c) neighborhood factors failed to account for race-moderated relations between adolescent externalizing problems and parent acceptance of the youth and use of psychological control. Implications of these findings for measuring neighborhood effects on individuals are discussed.