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

The Association Between Exposure to Neighborhood Crime and Grade Repetition: A Study of Adolescents in Santiago, Chile

Friday, January 18, 2013
Grande Ballroom A, B, and C (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Julie Ma, MSW, Doctoral Student, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Huiyun Kim, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Yoonsun Han, MPP, MSW, PhD Student, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Jorge Delva, PhD, Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Marcela Castillo, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile
Background and Purpose  Prior research has identified an inverse association between living in neighborhoods with a high level of crime and youth’s academic outcomes.  As lower academic performance is reported to have a negative relationship with youth’s successful transition into adulthood, effective intervention that alleviates the negative influences of living in disadvantaged neighborhoods plagued by crime on youth’s academic performance is critical.  Yet, this research is scant in Latin America.  Grounded in a resiliency model, this study examined (a) the association between exposure to neighborhood violence and youth’s academic performance and (b) the extent to which sense of school belonging, parental monitoring, and family involvement buffered the relationship between neighborhood crime and youth academic outcomes. 

Method  Data for this study are from 863 adolescents (ages 11-17, mean=14.3, SD=1.4) from municipalities of lower-middle to low socioeconomic status in Santiago, Chile.  Data were analyzed with descriptive and ordered logistic regression analyses.  The dependent variable was youth-reported grade repetition with an ordered response category (0=never, 1=once, 2=more than two times).  Brant test was conducted to test the proportional odds assumption and results indicated that the assumption was not violated.  The primary independent variable, neighborhood crime, was a composite score of three questions on youth perceptions of crime.  Scores ranged from none to 15.  Other independent variables included youth’s demographic information (e.g., gender, age, SES), individual- (self-esteem), school- (sense of school belonging), as well as family- (parental monitoring, family involvement) level factors.

Results  The prevalence of grade repetition in this sample was 19%, a higher percentage than that of other Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries (mean=13%).  Results of the ordered logistic regression indicated a positive relationship between youth’s exposure to neighborhood crime and grade repetition (OR=1.13; 95% CI=1.07-1.18).  This association was significant even after controlling for demographics, individual-, school- and family-level factors (OR=1.07; 95% CI=1.01-1.13).  Youth who were older, males, and those of lower socio-economic status were more likely to repeat a grade compared to their counterparts.  School belonging and parental monitoring were negatively associated with grade repetition.  In addition, when youth were exposed to higher levels of neighborhood crime, the probability of repeating a grade was lower among youth with higher levels of parental monitoring and school belonging, suggesting the protective role of positive school and family level factors in the relationship between neighborhood crime and grade repetition. 

Conclusions  The study findings demonstrate that youth’s exposure to neighborhood crime is positively associated with grade repetition among a sample of Chilean youth, even after controlling for demographic, individual, school and family characteristics.  Interestingly, positive school and family factors were protective amidst the presence of crime in the neighborhood where the youth live.  Consistent with social work’s person-in-environment framework, these findings point to the importance of comprehensive approaches at the educational practice and policy level to promoting youth academic performance by targeting changes at multiple levels that influence youth lives.