Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Having a strong community protects adolescents from risky health behaviors

Date:
February 3, 2011
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Children who grow up in poverty have health problems as adults. But a new study finds that poor adolescents who live in communities with more social cohesiveness and control get some measure of protection; they're less likely to smoke and be obese as adolescents.

Children who grow up in poverty have health problems as adults. But a new study finds that poor adolescents who live in communities with more social cohesiveness and control get some measure of protection; they're less likely to smoke and be obese as adolescents.

The new study, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, is part of a long-term examination of children growing up poor in rural upstate New York. The study was designed to discover, "What is it about poverty that leads to these negative outcomes?" says lead author Gary W. Evans, of Cornell University. He recruited the participants in the late 1990s, when they were 8 to 10 years old. About half grew up poor and the rest are from middle-income families. Evans and colleagues check in on them periodically to measure their health and exposure to risk factors, and the researchers are continuing to follow them.

For this analysis, Evans worked with Rachel Kutcher, then a Cornell honors undergraduate, who was interested in studying how community affects health. When the people in the study were about 17 years old, the subjects and their mothers filled out surveys about social capital, a measure of how connected a community is and how much social control there is. For example, the mothers decided how much they agreed that "One of my neighbors would do something if they saw someone trying to sell drugs to a child or youth in plain sight," and the adolescents indicated whether they had adults from whom they could ask for advice. The adolescents also completed surveys on behavior, including smoking, and had their height and weight measured.

As expected, adolescents from impoverished families were more likely to smoke and to have a higher body mass index (BMI), a measure of obesity, than adolescents from middle-income families. But poor adolescents who had more social capital were somewhat protected; they were less likely to smoke and tended to have lower BMIs than poor adolescents who didn't have abundant social capital. "You may be able to loosen those connections between early childhood poverty and negative health outcomes if you live in a community with good social resources," Evans says.

Adolescents in communities with more social capital may have better role models or mentors. Or perhaps in a more empowered community, where people feel comfortable stopping someone else's bad behavior, the young people also feel less helpless as individuals. They might believe that "you have some control over what's going to happen to you," Evans says.

It's an easy conclusion that increasing social capital might improve the lives of children in poverty. But Evans emphasizes that this won't solve the health problems associated with impoverished living in childhood. Poor adolescents who live in communities with more social capital may be better off than other poor kids, but they're still less healthy than their middle-income peers. "It's not correct to conclude that, if you just improve social capital, then it would be ok to be poor," Evans says. "Poverty is important."

This work was funded by the W.T. Grant Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Network on Socioeconomics Status and Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. G. W. Evans, R. Kutcher. Loosening the Link Between Childhood Poverty and Adolescent Smoking and Obesity: The Protective Effects of Social Capital. Psychological Science, 2010; 22 (1): 3 DOI: 10.1177/0956797610390387
  2. G. W. Evans, R. Kutcher. Loosening the Link Between Childhood Poverty and Adolescent Smoking and Obesity: The Protective Effects of Social Capital. Psychological Science, 2010; 22 (1): 3 DOI: 10.1177/0956797610390387

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Having a strong community protects adolescents from risky health behaviors." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110202114949.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2011, February 3). Having a strong community protects adolescents from risky health behaviors. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110202114949.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Having a strong community protects adolescents from risky health behaviors." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110202114949.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Science & Society News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

AP (July 30, 2014) British officials said on Wednesday that driverless cars will be tested on roads in as many as three cities in a trial program set to begin in January. Officials said the tests will last up to three years. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

AP (July 30, 2014) A ruptured 93-year-old water main left the UCLA campus awash in 8 million gallons of water in the middle of California's worst drought in decades. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus

Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus

AP (July 30, 2014) Scientists in Texas are studying the Ebola virus, which has killed more than 670 people across West Africa this year. Right now, the disease has no vaccine and no specific treatment, with a fatality rate of at least 60 percent. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins