RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT: Neighborhood affect on parenting by Dr. Jaclyn Dynia

Do neighborhoods affect infant parenting practices?

A new Crane study, “Neighborhood Influences on Perceived Social Support and Parenting Behaviors” published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal, is based on theories that neighborhoods influence family functioning and that social support has a positive effect on parenting, especially for parents in stressful situations. Most of the literature on neighborhoods and social support focuses on mothers of older children, who tend to have more opportunities for community involvement than mothers of infants. Using data from the Kids in Columbus Study, Crane researchers Dr. Jaclyn Dynia, Dr. Laura Justice, and Dr. Kelly Purtell fill this gap in the literature by exploring the relationship between neighborhood quality, perceived social support, and parenting for mothers with young infants in low-income households.

“During a global pandemic, community and social support have become even more essential for families, especially for low-income families with young infants. With this study we hope to shed light on how neighborhood quality and social supports are related to parenting.”

Jaclyn Dynia, PhD, Crane senior research specialist and study co-author

KEY FINDINGS

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Neighborhood quality and social support are related to aspects of parenting during the first year of life.

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Social support positively predicted parenting self-efficacy – suggesting mothers who report greater availability of social support feel more confident in their abilities to care for their infant.

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Neighborhood quality was significantly related to greater parental involvement.

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For each of the four parenting outcomes, the authors found no evidence that the association between social support and parenting varied as a function of neighborhood quality. This finding suggests the neighborhood qualities captured in our study do not influence mothers’ ability to access social support during infancy.

ACTION STEP

These findings indicate that it may be promising to develop parenting interventions that leverage the strengths of neighborhoods and help mothers develop strong social connections.