Are Children from Disadvantaged Neighborhoods Prone to Have Conduct Issues?

According to a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Dayton, children who come from disadvantaged neighborhoods (DN) are at increased risk for developing conduct problems (CP) in their pre-teen and teen years. “Children growing up in disadvantaged neighborhoods characterized by poverty, low levels of social organization and cohesion, and high levels of residential instability and crime are at increased risk for a host of negative outcomes, including academic failure, depression and anxiety, teenage pregnancy, and conduct problems,” said Jackson A. Goodnight, of the University of Dayton and lead author of the study. One contributing factor for this dynamic could be that families from DNs often have low incomes, and are usually single-family households, making parental supervision difficult and CP more likely. If ND is a risk factor for CP, the researchers believe the implications, socially, economically, and psychologically, could be profound.

The team reviewed data gathered from the Children of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (CNLSY) and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1979 (NLSY79) to make their assessment. The participants in the surveys were assessed every year beginning in 1979 and ending in 1994, resulting in a total of 4,912 women, all with a minimum of one child. The women reported income and conduct problems. The children also participated in self-reports of delinquency as they got older.

The study revealed that ND was a significant factor for CP in the offspring of the mothers in the survey. Goodnight said, “Although this hypothesis needs to be tested further using a variety of quasi-experimental and experimental designs that can rule out the remaining alternative explanations, the present results lend further credence to the idea that interventions targeted at facets of communities, not just specific families or individuals, could reduce the prevalence of psychological and behavioral problems that have significant personal and societal costs.”

Goodnight, J. A., Lahey, B. B., Van Hulle, C. A., Rodgers, J. L., Rathouz, P. J., Waldman, I. D., & D’Onofrio, B. M. (2011, September 26). A Quasi-Experimental Analysis of the Influence of Neighborhood Disadvantage on Child and Adolescent Conduct Problems. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025078

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Peyton


    October 12th, 2011 at 4:09 AM

    I would certainly think that they would have problems with behavior as most of them have had no real role models in their lives on a consistent basis to show them what good behavior is all about. For many of them all they have witnessed out of life is bad behavior and a bad attitude. They may have also seen that the ones who do the crimes are the ones rolling in the cash, so why not take that chance too and try to have more? There has to be someone in a young child’s life to teach them right from wrong. Otherwise we all know the kind of adult that they are typically going to turn out to be.

  • kenny


    October 12th, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    while there could be exceptions,I do believe that children in such neighborhoods do have it tough and they do face problems and issues such as what is mentioned here.but this also gives us a chance to help them.reach out to a neighborhood and you’re immediately benefiting children from several households all at once.

  • Mae


    October 13th, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    Don’t judge a book by its cover! Isn’t that the old saying?
    These kids could be gems underneath the hard surface and we never really give them a time to shine because we are too busy thinking that we know who they are and what they are all about just ebcause of where they live!
    There have been many a great artist, writer, scientist, etc that came from an underpriviledged background. Think of how depressing life would have been had they at some point not been given the chance to let their light shine.

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