Longitudinal Associations of Neighborhood Collective Efficacy and Maternal Corporal Punishment With Behavior Problems in Early Childhood
Neighborhood and parenting influences on early behavioral outcomes are strongly dependent upon a child’s stage of development. However, little research has jointly considered the longitudinal associations of neighborhood and parenting processes with behavior problems in early childhood. To address this limitation, this study explores the associations of neighborhood collective efficacy and maternal corporal punishment with the longitudinal patterns of early externalizing and internalizing behavior problems. The study sample consisted of 3,705 families from a nationally representative cohort study of urban families. Longitudinal multilevel models examined the associations of collective efficacy and corporal punishment with behavior problems at age 3, as well as with patterns of behavior problems between the ages 3 to 5. Interactions between the main predictors and child age tested whether neighborhood and parent relationships with child behavior varied over time. Mediation analysis examined whether neighborhood influences on child behavior were mediated by parenting. The models controlled for a comprehensive set of possible confounders at the child, parent, and neighborhood levels. Results indicate that both maternal corporal punishment and low neighborhood collective efficacy were significantly associated with increased behavior problems. The significant interaction between collective efficacy and child age with internalizing problems suggests that neighborhood influences on internalizing behavior were stronger for younger children. The indirect effect of low collective efficacy on behavior problems through corporal punishment was not significant. These findings highlight the importance of multilevel interventions that promote both neighborhood collective efficacy and nonphysical discipline in early childhood.