Methods: The data came from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent and Adult Health. The study sample 11,377 respondents who participated in Wave I (1994-1995), Wave III (2001-2002), and Wave IV (2008). First, we performed a latent profile analysis (LPA) using 12 census track level indicators to identify unobserved profiles of neighborhood structural characteristics in adolescence. Second, we conducted a path analysis to test direct relationships between the latent profiles of neighborhood structural characteristics and the diagnosis of mental disorders (i.e., PTSD, depression, and anxiety) and indirect associations through exposure to community violence (e.g., the witness of community violence and the victims of community violence). In the path model, we included control variables: age, gender, race/ethnicity, public assistance, marital status, education, general health status, and depression and anxiety before age 18.
Results: The LPA identified four profiles of neighborhood structural characteristics: Upper-middle White Suburban (Profile 1; 71.3%); Profile 2: Poor Black Suburban (18.5%); Profile 3: Poor Hispanic Immigrant Urban (1.8 %); and Profile 4: Middle Mixed Race Immigrant Urban (8.4%). The path analysis found that adolescents in Profile 2, Profile 3, and Profile 4 had a higher likelihood of witnessing community violence than those in Profile 1. Adolescents in Profile 2 had a higher likelihood of being victims of community violence than those in Profile 1. However, adolescents in Profile 3 and Profile 4 were less likely to be diagnosed with mental disorders in young adulthood compared to those in Profile 1. Regarding the medicating effects of exposure to community violence, Profile 2 and Profile 3 were more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD through the witness of community violence compared to Profile 1.
Conclusions: Our findings highlight the importance of addressing complex neighborhood structural characteristics. Community-based interventions need to understand psychological well-being and healthy development with exposure to community violence and neighborhood contexts.