Latest Issue of Science News


Neighborhood unity offers behavioral protection for poor kids

In deprived areas, youngsters’ misconduct declines when community members know one another well.

From a child’s perspective, not all low-income neighborhoods are alike. Though opportunities for youthful fighting and law breaking abound in impoverished areas, good neighbors can nudge youngsters toward the straight and narrow, according to a five-year study led by psychologist Candice Odgers of the University of California, Irvine.

When a low-income community has a high level of a trait known as collective efficacy, 5-year-olds are less likely to fight, steal and engage in other misconduct, Odgers and her colleagues report in the July Developmental Psychology. Members of communities with high collective efficacy are close-knit and willing to intervene on behalf of the common good, say to prevent children from spraying graffiti on a local building or to prevent city officials from closing a nearby fire station.

Note: To comment, Science News subscribing members must now establish a separate login relationship with Disqus. Click the Disqus icon below, enter your e-mail and click “forgot password” to reset your password. You may also log into Disqus using Facebook, Twitter or Google.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join SSP today or Log in.