The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Feeling Blue: Neighborhood Context and Mental Health Outcomes Among Second-Generation Youths

Friday, January 18, 2013: 3:00 PM
Executive Center 1 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Rocio Calvo, PhD, Assistant Professor, Boston College, Chesnut Hill, MA
Van Tran, Health & Society Scholar Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Purpose: The theory of segmented assimilation correctly points to the importance of context of reception – which is broadly defined as the adaptation of immigrant groups determined by the reception of the host society towards immigrants and the existence of co-ethnic communities – in shaping specific outcomes (Portes and Rumbaut 2001:46-49).  More specifically, embeddedness in the co-ethnic community has been hypothesized to be protective to children of immigrants whereas exposure to inner-city cultures might be potentially harmful (Portes and Rumbaut 2001; Portes and Zhou 1993).  However, few studies have focused on how neighborhood environment might matter for second-generation outcomes and even fewer have paid any attention to mental health outcomes among the second-generation. This project explores how neighborhood contexts shape depression outcomes among the post-1965 second generation. We seek to answer the following questions: (1) how self-reported depression vary across ethnic/racial groups and over time as respondents enter young adulthood; (2) what individual and contextual factors determine depression and well-being; (3) what social mechanisms underlie the relationship between neighborhood characteristics and depression.  At the individual level, we focus on factors such as social support (from family, friends and significant others), which have been shown to be critical to mental health outcomes. At the neighborhood level, we explore how perceptions of neighborhood disorder and exposure to neighborhood violence might contribute to mental health stress and depressive symptoms.

Methods: Data were drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). A total of 20,745 individuals nested in 125 neighborhoods who took in-home questionnaires in grades 7-12 during the 1994-95 school year (Wave I) have been followed into young adulthood with three additional in-home interviews in 1996 (Wave II), 2001-2002 (Wave III) and 2007-08 (Wave IV). Self-reported depressive symptoms were measured using the CES-D scale. At the contextual-level we included measures of neighborhood disorder, social cohesion, concentrated disadvantage, concentrated immigration, residential stability and adult-child ratio. We fit a series of growth-curve models to estimate the impact of neighborhood contexts on individuals’ depressive symptoms while adjusting for demographic and socioeconomic confounders at the individual-level.

Results: Black and Puerto Rican youths report higher levels of depression across the four waves than non-Hispanic Whites, Chinese, Filipino, Mexican, Cuban and Central/South American second-generation youth. Moving frequently while growing up (β=0.008; p<0.001) and neighborhood disorder (β=0.008; p<0.05) were associated with higher levels of depression. In contrast, immigrant concentration was negatively associated with depression (β=-0.016; p<0.01).

Implications: Findings support the hypothesis that co-ethnic communities can have a protective effect on the development of depressive symptoms among the second-generation youth. Given the importance of co-ethnic communities for the mental health of second-generation youth, the fastest growing population in the United States, community health providers and other organizations serving immigrant communities can work on strategies aimed to strengthen the social cohesion of the neighborhood and the residential stability of the immigrant families.