Parental perceptions of the neighborhood context and adolescent depression

OBJECTIVE: To examine the associations between parental perceptions of the neighborhood context and adolescent depression including potential gender differences in outcomes.

DESIGN AND SAMPLE: Descriptive correlational study. A total of 32,499 parents of adolescents aged 12-17 years.

MEASURES: Descriptive and multivariate logistic and linear regression analyses of the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health. Neighborhood context was operationalized as physical disorder, social isolation, and lack of safety. Two depression outcomes (current depression diagnosis and current depression symptoms) were analyzed.

RESULTS: Parental perceptions of neighborhood physical disorder were positively associated with adolescent depression diagnosis (AOR = 1.73, 95% CI = 1.07, 2.80) and an increase in depression symptoms (0.186, p < 0.001). In addition, parental perceptions of neighborhood social isolation (0.061, p < 0.001) and lack of safety (0.037, p < 0.01) were associated with adolescent depression symptoms, and the measures modestly attenuated the relationship between neighborhood physical disorder and adolescent depression symptoms (0.117, p < 0.05). No significant gender differences were found.

CONCLUSIONS: Public health interventions to reduce neighborhood physical disorder, social isolation, and lack of safety should be considered in efforts to promote adolescent mental health. Further research exploring other mechanisms through which neighborhood physical disorder may contribute to adolescent depression also is needed, including potential gender differences.