Why Neighborhoods (and How We Study Them) Matter for Adolescent Development

T. D. Warner, R. A. Settersten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Adolescence is a sensitive developmental period marked by significant changes that unfold across multiple contexts. As a central context of development, neighborhoods capture-in both physical and social space-the stratification of life chances and differential distribution of resources and risks. For some youth, neighborhoods are springboards to opportunities; for others, they are snares that constrain progress and limit the ability to avoid risks. Despite abundant research on "neighborhood effects," scant attention has been paid to how neighborhoods are a product of social stratification forces that operate simultaneously to affect human development. Neighborhoods in the United States are the manifestation of three intersecting social structural cleavages: race/ethnicity, socioeconomic class, and geography. Many opportunities are allocated or denied along these three cleavages. To capture these joint processes, we advocate a "neighborhood-centered" approach to study the effects of neighborhoods on adolescent development. Using nationally representative data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), we demonstrate the complex ways that these three cleavages shape specific neighborhood contexts and can result in stark differences in well-being. A neighborhood-centered approach demands more rigorous and sensitive theories of place, as well as multidimensional classification and measures. We discuss an agenda to advance the state of theories and research, drawing explicit attention to the stratifying forces that bring about distinct neighborhood types that shape developmental trajectories during adolescence and beyond.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAdvances in Child Development and Behavior
StateAccepted/In press - 2016


  • Add Health
  • Ecology
  • Inequality
  • Latent class analysis
  • Life course
  • Social contexts
  • Stratification
  • Victimization
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Why Neighborhoods (and How We Study Them) Matter for Adolescent Development'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this