Category: Child / Adolescent - Depression
Residential mobility has been identified as an important factor to consider in the development of maladaptive psychological outcomes, including depression (Jelleyman & Spencer, 2008). However, empirical research has yielded mixed findings regarding psychological adjustment for children and adolescents who moved from high risk neighborhoods to objectively better neighborhood environments. For example, evaluations of Moving to Opportunity, a large scale intervention designed to move families from high poverty to low poverty neighborhoods, have shown both positive (Graif, Arcaya, & Roux, 2016; Leventhal & Dupéré, 2011) and negative effects (Kessler et al., 2014) on the development of depression. Possible mechanisms through which mobility may differentially affect depression are not known.
One factor that has been found to contribute to depression in urban dwelling individuals is one’s perception of neighborhood quality and characteristics. For adolescents, neighborhood perceptions such as perception of neighborhood safety and violence (Cammack, Lambert, Ialongo, 2010; Kiff et al., 2012), hazards (Aneshensel & Sucoff, 1996), and lack of social support in the neighborhood (Snedker & Hooven, 2013) among others have been linked with depressive symptomology. Although neighborhood perceptions are individuals’ subjective reflections about their neighborhood, research has indicated that they may in fact be accurate reflections of the environment (Bass & Lambert, 2004). Moving to a new neighborhood may be accompanied by changes in neighborhood perceptions which in turn may have implications for depression. Thus, the present study explored the possible mediating effect of neighborhood perceptions following a move in predicting depressive symptomology.
Participants were 427 African American adolescents (48% female) who reported about perceptions of their neighborhood and depressive symptomology at grades 6 and 7. A dummy variable for moves in grade 6 was created based on change in address from the prior year. Analyses using the PROCESS Macro (Hayes, 2013) in SPSS revealed a significant indirect association between moving in grade 6 and depressive symptomology in grade 7 through differences in neighborhood perceptions (B = -.01, CI [ -.036, -.003]). Results suggest that moving is associated with better perceptions of one’s neighborhood (B = -.17, p < .05) which in turn predicts fewer depressive symptoms one year after the move (B = .08, p < .01); however, there was no direct effect of moving on depressive symptoms a year later (B =-.05, p > .10). Implications for future research on how movements in the environment influence cognitions will be discussed.
The George Washington University
Washington, District Of Columbia