Family and Environmental Influences on Child Behavioral Health: The Role of Neighborhood Disorder and Adverse Childhood Experiences

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The Adverse Childhood Experiences study suggests childhood adversity is a “root” origin for health and human development. Newer research is examining the more immediate impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on child development and the impact of neighborhood environment on the likelihood of and prevention ACEs. The extent to which all of these aspects of the child context fit together remains unclear. The current study seeks to fill this gap examining the precursors for ACEs and the multitude of ways in which a child's home life can impact his or her development.


Using data from 3001 mothers of children in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, this study investigates the relationship between neighborhood disorder, ACEs, and child behavioral health. Using a path analysis, the direct and indirect relations between neighborhood disorder and child behavioral health are estimated, with ACEs as the key mediator.


The most common ACE in our study was intimate partner violence (IPV), followed by child emotional abuse. Neighborhood disorder is associated with higher levels of ACEs and is both directly and indirectly (through its relation with ACEs) negatively related to child behavioral health.


Screening for ACEs for children living in disordered neighborhoods may help reduce those experiences and their impacts in this high-risk population. Preventive interventions related to IPV and child emotional abuse may be especially helpful.

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