Neighbourhood social trust and youth perceptions of safety during daily activities

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Abstract

Exposure to adverse neighbourhood conditions can negatively impact adolescent well-being and perceived safety. However, the impact of neighbourhood social trust on perceived safety is largely unknown. We studied 139 adolescent men to investigate how their perceptions of safety varied as a function of social trust levels in the neighbourhoods they traversed; neighbourhoods that were not necessarily their own. Adolescents mapped their minute-by-minute activities over a recent day and rated their perceived safety on a 10-point scale during in-person interviews. Neighbourhood social trust was measured via a citywide random sample survey. Mixed effects regression showed that, compared with their safety perceptions when in areas of low social trust, older adolescents were 73% more likely to feel unsafe when in areas of medium social trust, and 89% more likely to feel unsafe when in areas of high social trust. Inverse relationships between neighbourhood social trust and adolescents’ perceived safety highlight the complex interplay between youth, environmental contexts and safety.

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