Does Neighborhood Belonging Matter? Examining School and Neighborhood Belonging as Protective Factors for Latino Adolescents

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Across many investigations, school belonging has been linked to several positive outcomes among adolescents, including academic success and psychological well-being. Based on an ecological framework of child development, this study expands on existing research to explore factors that contribute to adolescents’ sense of neighborhood as well as school belonging and investigates how belonging in both contexts is related to Latino adolescents’ academic and psychological functioning. Participants consisted of 202 Latino adolescents residing in low-income, urban neighborhoods. Structural equation modeling demonstrated that neighborhood peer support was significantly associated with adolescents’ sense of neighborhood belonging, whereas teacher support and school peer support were related to school belonging. Although school belonging was positively associated with higher scores on all academic indicators, neighborhood belonging was negatively related to academic aspirations and expectations, grades, and educational values. Yet, both school and neighborhood belonging were associated with better psychological functioning as manifested by lower reported levels of depression. The importance of investigating Latino adolescents’ development within multiple contexts is discussed.

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