Burcher, S. A., Weiler, L. M., Keyzers, A., & Cavell, T. A. (2021). Neighborhood Risk and Interpersonal Support as Predictors of Parents’ Sense of Community. Journal of Child and Family Studies. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-021-01957-9
Summarized by Ariel Ervin
Notes of Interest:
- Although parents’ sense of community (SOC) can positively impact their children’s (and family’s) well-being, neighborhood risk can undermine its positive effects.
- This study explores if neighborhood risk is a predictor of parents’ SOC and whether parents’ perceived interpersonal support moderates this relationship.
- Findings indicate that lower neighborhood risk and increased interpersonal support correlate with higher SOC.
- Neighborhood context and interpersonal support were essential contributors to parents’ SOC.
- Despite these findings, the researchers could not find support for the following hypothesis:
- Parents’ perceived interpersonal support moderates the negative relationship between neighborhood risk and SOC
- Further analysis suggests that living in neighborhoods where there are gangs &/or illegal drugs is a salient risk factor for lower SOC.
- Overall findings highlight the importance of programs to build trust with help-seeking single mothers (made up a significant portion of the sample).
- Given the mixed findings of this study, future studies need to account for other forms of support (reciprocal childcare arrangements) when examining SOC and neighborhood risk.
Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)
Parents’ sense of community (SOC) may ease the impact of neighborhood risk on children’s outcomes, but not all parents feel part of a trusted community. In this study, we examined whether parents’ ratings of neighborhood risk and interpersonal support were related to their SOC, and whether interpersonal support moderated the relationship between neighborhood risk and parents’ SOC. Participants included 161 parents (M = 40.25 years; 92.3% female) of minor children who were enrolled in youth mentoring programs. Results indicated that greater interpersonal support and less neighborhood risk was associated with parents’ SOC. Post-hoc analyses showed that living in a neighborhood with gangs and illegal drugs, but not residential instability or living in public housing, was a salient risk factor for lower SOC. Contrary to our prediction, interpersonal support did not moderate the link between neighborhood risk and parents’ SOC. These findings may inform interventions designed to bolster parents’ connectedness to community and ability to promote children’s positive development.
Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)
The current study considered the extent to which neigh- borhood risk and perceived interpersonal support were linked to parents’ SOC. Findings provide evidence of the potential influence that neighborhood risk and interpersonal support have on parents’ perceptions about their community. As expected, higher levels of interpersonal support and less neighborhood risk were associated with a greater SOC. However, we also hypothesized that parents’ perceptions of interpersonal support would moderate the negative relation between neighborhood risk and SOC; however, we found no support of a significant interaction effect.
Consistent with previous research on parents’ SOC and ecological theories, we found support for hypothesis 1 suggesting that neighborhood context was an important contributor to parents’ connectedness to their community (Cuellar et al., 2015). Also, according to social disorganization theory, neighborhood disadvantages negatively affected the quality of families’ social networks and the social organization of their community (Cantillon et al., 2003). As applied to parenting outcomes, this finding further supports the impact of accumulated neighborhood contextual risks on parents’ SOC, especially for this sample of single mothers who are presumably seeking support (i.e., their children were enrolled in youth mentoring programs). We also found support for hypothesis 2 suggesting that interpersonal support was an important contributor to par- ents’ connectedness to their community (Tendulkar et al., 2012). It makes sense that parents who feel interpersonally supported in their community also report higher levels SOC. On the flip side, parents lacking interpersonal connections do not perceive a strong sense of community. This finding corroborates prior research suggesting that interpersonal connections make way for felt sense of belonging and mattering within a community (August, 2014). Future longitudinal research should empirically examine the temporal order of these variables.
Finally, we hypothesized that parents’ perceptions of interpersonal support would moderate the negative relation between neighborhood risk and SOC; however, we found no support of a significant interaction effect. This notion is in line with findings indicating that neighborhood dis- advantage was unrelated to new mothers’ perceived support when the financial investment need was small (Turney & Harknett, 2010) and with findings that interpersonal support predicted parenting behaviors even when neighborhood structural disadvantage did not (Byrnes & Miller, 2012). Ecological theories and research suggest that the parents’ interpersonal relationships are developed in the context of their neighborhood and could facilitate a felt sense of belonging to one’s community (Duke et al., 2012; Richardson & Van Brakle, 2013; Williams & Merten, 2015). Additionally, social disorganization theory (Kubrin & Weitzer, 2003) suggests that neighborhood social ties could attenuate the impact of neighborhood risks on SOC. In the same way, a lack of interpersonal support limits parents’ SOC; potentially more so in disadvantaged neighborhoods. For instance, among young mothers ageing out of the child welfare system, a lack of trust in their interpersonal supports reduced their access to needed resources and social capital (Radey et al., 2017). The research on interpersonal support is fairly nuanced and the findings are not well understood. For some parents, interpersonal relationships can enable negative behavior (Carpiano, 2008) and decrease SOC (Wahler, 1980), perhaps due to feeling stigmatized when reaching out for support (Aldridge et al., 2011; Dempster et al., 2015; Johnston & Burke, 2020). In other words, parents may utilize interpersonal support to meet child and familial needs, but may not feel like a respected or valued part of their community. For instance, Hawkins (2010) found that for single mothers who had previously experienced homelessness, interpersonal support pertaining to childcare was viewed as both helpful and harmful. As such, interpersonal support, while it had a main effect on SOC, did not attenuate the link between risk and SOC.
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