substance use, are linked primarily with neighborhoods and schools. For example, poor and ethnic minority children in particular are frequently exposed to violence in their neighborhoods and schools. Among 900 low-income, primarily minority adolescents in New York City in 2002-2003, rates of exposure to violence of various kinds were high: someone offering or using drugs (70 percent), someone beaten or mugged (51 percent), someone being stabbed (17 percent), someone being shot at (14 percent), and someone being killed (12 percent) (Gershoff, Pedersen, et al., 2004). Many also reported being the victim of violent acts, such as being asked to sell or use drugs (35 percent), having their home broken into (18 percent), being beaten up (13 percent), and being threatened with death (9 percent). Much of the exposure to violence occurs either at school or on the way to school (DeVoe, Peter, et al., 2003; Bell and Jenkins, 1991; Richters and Martinez, 1993; Gershoff, Aber, and Raver, 2003).
Exposure to violence is associated with children’s development of various mental health problems, particularly posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, antisocial behavior, and substance use (Jenkins and Bell, 1994; Gorman-Smith and Tolan, 1998). A reciprocal relation exists between academic achievement and mental health outcomes, in which mental health problems adversely affect academic achievement (Adelman and Taylor, 2000), and poor academic achievement is related to the development of multiple problem behaviors (e.g., substance abuse, antisocial behavior) as well as teenage pregnancy and low occupational attainment (Dryfoos, 1990).
The growing empirical research on characteristics of neighborhoods and schools that are linked with problem development as well as positive youth development has implications for the development and evaluation of prevention and promotion interventions. Gershoff, Aber, and Raver (2003) propose that another dimension of schools and neighborhoods that may affect the development of child mental, emotional, and behavioral problems is the degree to which they provide settings that support healthy development. They characterize neighborhood disadvantage as the absence of settings that provide opportunities for healthy child development—settings for learning (e.g., libraries), social and recreational activities (e.g., parks), child care, quality schools, health care services, and employment opportunities. For schools, disadvantage can be assessed as lower per student spending, a high percentage of children from families in poverty, a higher number of inexperienced and academically unprepared teachers, a high student-to-teacher ratio, and school size being either too large or too small. Each of these characteristics of neighborhoods and schools has been linked with mental, emotional, and behavioral problems of children. Although it is difficult to disentangle the causal effects of neighborhood and school disadvantage from the effects of factors in families and children who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods, research has found that neighborhood