Positive Parenting

Positive Parenting: Neighborhood quality impacts kids' behavior

A clean, safe place to play. What other factors do parents perceive as making a neighborhood high quality or poor quality for raising kids? 

This East Baltimore neighborhood was the inspiration for one area of public health research. Scientist Mengying Li lived here while attending graduate school.

"Once I actually heard a gunshot at my doorstep, and like probably a teenager got shot in his back," Li said. 

Li and fellow researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health studied data on 3,500 children over ten years, from birth to age 12. Researchers say parents rated the perceived quality of their neighborhood for raising children, with a score of one being the poorest to a high of five. Many of the poor quality neighborhoods had dilapidated homes, garbage, signs of drug use on the sidewalks and lots of noise. 

"Children who live in poor quality neighborhoods would have more externalizing behaviors," Li said. 

Problem behaviors in kids, like fighting, bullying, cheating or being destructive, predicted more serious outcomes later in life, but researchers say caregivers can help a child change direction. 

"If there is a change of environment, say if they have improvements in their family relationship or the neighborhood condition, they actually might have an opportunity to improve," Li said. 


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