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Capitalizing on Place: An Investigation of the Relationships among Social Capital, Neighborhood Conditions, Maternal Depression, and Child Outcomes

  • Author(s): Delany-Brumsey, Ayesha
  • Advisor(s): Mays, Vickie M
  • et al.

In this dissertation I employ an ecological framework to understand the co-occurring influence of the individual, family, and community on child and maternal well-being. Specifically, I investigate the relationship of neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage and social capital as it applies to child behavior problems, child academic skills, and maternal depression, while also accounting for individual and family characteristics. In all three studies, I analyze data from the Los Angles Family and Neighborhood Survey (L.A. FANS) using multilevel linear regression.

In the first study, I investigate the association of neighborhood and maternal characteristics with child and adolescent behavior problems. The results showed that children and adolescents of depressed mothers, and children living in high poverty neighborhoods, had more internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. Finally, although neighborhood social capital was not directly associated with behavior, social capital did attenuate the relationship between maternal depression and higher levels of adolescent behavior problems.

In the second study, I demonstrate that children of depressed mothers performed worse on measures of reading ability and math computation skills. Also, children living in neighborhoods higher in social capital performed better on the measure of math computation compared to children living in lower social capital neighborhoods. However, social capital was not associated with either of the measures of reading achievement. In addition, neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage was not significantly associated with any of the academic outcomes. I also did not find that social capital moderated the relationship between maternal depression and child academic skills.

In the third study, I focus on the importance of neighborhood characteristics as predictors of depression among Latina mothers. I also investigated how neighborhood structural characteristics - socioeconomic disadvantage, residential stability and the percent of Latinos in the community, are associated with social capital. As expected, residential stability was positively, while socioeconomic disadvantage was negatively, associated with social capital. Contrary to my hypothesis about the protective effects of living in a neighborhood with a higher percent of co-ethnics, an ethnic enclave, the percent of Latinos in the community was negatively associated with social capital. However, as predicted, neighborhood social capital was negatively associated with depression for Latinas.

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