Methods: Data and samples: This study used data from the 2013 Korean National Survey of the Present Status of Children, a government-approved statistical survey of children and caregivers in all households in Korea with children aged 0 through 17 years. The data for final analysis were from 1964 children nested in 106 residential neighborhoods(administrative district units).
Measures: Mental health problems were measured by the Health Behavior in School-Aged Children (HBSC) Symptom Checklist Scale(Haugland & Wold, 2001). The measure of collective efficacy was based on five items from previous research by Sampson et al. (1997) and represents social cohesion and informal social control in a neighborhood. The children in the survey were asked to answer agree or disagree for five statements about the neighborhood(e.g., people in this neighborhood get along with each other). The children’s responses to collective efficacy questions were aggregated to the neighborhood level according to the administrative unit in which they resided. A variety of individual- and neighborhood-level variables were controlled. At the individual level, a child’s gender, age, family economic status, supportive parenting, child maltreatment, schoolwork pressure, and bullying victimization were included. At the neighborhood level, neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage was included as a control variable. Neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage was captured by combining three indicators: the proportion of unemployed residents, the proportion of female-headed households, and the number of residents receiving public assistance. To estimate the effect of neighborhood-level collective efficacy on an individual child’s mental health problems, this study applied a multilevel model and tested it with HLM 7.
Results: Statistical analyses demonstrated a significant negative association between neighborhood collective efficacy and children’s self-reported mental health problems after adjusting for a host of individual characteristics and for neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage. Higher levels of neighborhood collective efficacy were associated with lower levels of children’s self-reported mental health problems(p<.05).
Implications: The primary finding was that neighborhood collective efficacy had protective associations with children’s self-reported mental health problems after controlling for confounders. This suggests that policies aimed at improving the mental health of South Korean children should include community-level interventions to build and strengthen neighborhood collective efficacy.