• the decline in economic security (including decreasing real earnings and rising levels of unemployment), especially for young adults;

  • the increase in single-parent, usually female-headed, families;

  • the relation of male joblessness to social disorganization and rational planning for families and adolescents;

  • easy access to illegal drugs and guns;

  • high rates of youth crime and juvenile detention; and

  • the role of illegal or underground economies in providing for basic goods and services.

These factors contribute to the absence of adult supervision and monitoring, a dearth of safe places to gather, the absence of constructive activities during idle periods, increased exposure to law enforcement and prison settings, and diminished opportunities for interaction with positive role models and needed institutional resources.

Patterns of residential transience, often generated by poverty, represent another neighborhood factor that can influence youth development. Frequent household moves, disruptions in daily routines caused by unrelated individuals entering or departing the household, and mobility among neighbors can undermine community ties, weaken support networks, and reduce privacy. However, such transience does not inevitably disrupt development if adolescents have opportunities to sustain relationships with trusted adults.

Encounters with neighborhoods are shaped not only by parenting processes and children's experiences, but also by class, gender, and ethnicity. There is a great deal of evidence that suggests that social class influences the character of the neighborhood organization and culture. For example, many poor adolescents are growing up in racially segregated and economically isolated neighborhoods. In these neighborhoods, a high proportion of adults are poor, unemployed, on welfare, or single parents. Research shows that these adolescents are in fact at increased risk for school failure and dropping out of school, unintended pregnancy, abuse of alcohol and other drugs, delinquency, and victimization and perpetration of violence. The strength and quality of social networks in neighborhoods also may affect the types of adult interactions that adolescents experience, which in turn can influence their choice of role models and life course options.

The child's age and gender are also likely to result in sharply divergent experiences that modify the impact of neighborhoods on development. Girls typically are granted less autonomy and are subject to greater parental

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement