The Association of Neighborhood Social Environment and Maternal Stress

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Submission ID :
ESPR370
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Abstract: :

Background: Low-income families are disproportionately exposed to neighborhood stressors, like crime. Consistent parental stress may negatively impact child physical and mental health, while living in a neighborhood with a supportive social environment may circumvent the effects of stress and promote well-being. Few studies have examined the relationship between neighborhood social factors and stress among mothers of young children.


Objective: To examine the association between neighborhood social environment and stress among mothers of low-income, preschool-aged, children.


Design/Methods: Between October 2019-August 2020, we administered a survey to 300 mothers of Medicaid-enrolled 2-4 year-olds who were English-speaking and lived in Philadelphia. Maternal stress was measured via the validated, 10-item Perceived Stress Scale and analyzed as a continuous variable (range 0-40). Mothers' perceived neighborhood social characteristics (safety, collective efficacy, social cohesion, informal social control) were assessed using validated scales. Items were averaged to create summary scores (range 1-5) for each measure. Parent addresses were geocoded to link census block group police-recorded crime rates. We used multivariable linear regression to examine associations of neighborhood social environment measures with maternal stress score, adjusted for demographics, family socioeconomic status, and neighborhood covariates. Multiple imputation was used to address missing data.


Results: Among mothers (mean age 31, 60% Black), the overall mean stress score was 16.8 ± 7.2, similar to national averages among women. Higher perceived neighborhood safety, collective efficacy, social cohesion, and informal social control were associated with lower maternal stress scores after adjustment for individual, family, and neighborhood covariates (Table). Each 1-point increase (on a 5-point scale) in perceived neighborhood safety was associated with a 2.10-point decrease in maternal stress (95% CI: -2.92, -1.29). Similarly, each 1-point increase in perceived neighborhood collective efficacy was associated with a 2.82-point decrease in maternal stress (95% CI: -3.99, -1.65). Police-recorded crime rates were not associated with maternal stress. 


Conclusion: Mothers of young children who perceive their neighborhood social environment more favorably have less stress compared to those who feel their neighborhood environment is less safe and cohesive. However, associations were not observed for objective crime rates. 

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Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
University of Pennsylvania
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

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