Methods: The Year 15 data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study were analyzed (N=3,269). The dependent variables included internalizing, externalizing, adaptive social, and risky sexual behaviors. The key independent variables included neighborhood collective efficacy, positive parenting practice, and positive peer relationship. To leave out potential confounding factors, the analyses included covariates: youth gender, race/ethnicity, health status, child protective services contact history, primary caregiver, caregiver’s education, family structure, family poverty level, and community violence. Multiple linear regressions were conducted for continuous outcomes, and the logistic regression was conducted for the risky sexual behavior outcome.
Results: Findings from the analyses revealed that youth perceived community, family, and peer components as protective factors contributed to youth internalizing, externalizing, and adaptive social behaviors. To be specific: (1) Neighborhood collective efficacy was negatively associated with internalizing (β = -.002, p < .05) and externalizing behaviors (β = - .003, p < .001) and positively associated with adaptive social behaviors (β = .113, p < .001). But it was not found to be related to risky sexual behaviors. (2) Positive parenting was negatively associated with internalizing (β = -.059, p < .01), externalizing (β = - .076, p < .001), and risky sexual behaviors (OR = .432, p < .001) and positively associated with adaptive social behaviors (β = 1.878, p < .001). (3) Positive peer relationship was negatively associated with internalizing (β = - .055, p < .001) and externalizing behaviors (β = - .030, p < .01) and positively associated with adaptive social behaviors (β = 1.771, p < .001). But it was not found to be related to risky sexual behaviors.
Conclusions and Implications: The results validate different mechanisms for youth behaviors and suggest different level interventions necessarily to prevent youth problem behaviors and promote youth social skills. Implications for practice can be drawn from the results. As the positive peer relationship is a protective factor to all youth behaviors, school-based programs with an emphasis on positive peer relationships should be prioritized and developed. As neighborhood collective efficacy additionally contributes to better youth social skills, service delivery should focus on an integration of community resources and development of youth social participation. As positive parenting decreases youth internalizing, externalizing, and risky sexual behaviors, practitioners working with fragile families need to offer parenting services regarding youth acting out behaviors and with a prevention component.