Abstract: What Determines Perceptions of Neighborhood Disorder? the Importance of Psychological Characteristics (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

18P What Determines Perceptions of Neighborhood Disorder? the Importance of Psychological Characteristics

Thursday, January 13, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Seungjong Cho, PhD, Assistant Professor, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX
Yeonwoo Kim, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Arlington, TX
Background/Purpose: Older residents’ perception of neighborhood disorder has been a critical aspect of their aging in place, especially for their mental health. Literature documented that people perceive and interpret neighborhood disorder cues differently than their neighbors due to various reasons, including sociodemographic characteristics and psychological factors. Only a handful of empirical research was conducted to identify what psychological characteristics determine perceived neighborhood disorder. Therefore, the present study investigates the association between loneliness and perceived neighborhood disorder with adjustment for objectively measured neighborhood stressors among middle-aged and older Americans in a nationally representative study.

Methods: This study analyzed a merged data from two sources: (1) the 2016 Health and Retirement Study and (2) the 2014-2018 American Community Survey. The outcome variable, perceived neighborhood disorder, was measured by averaging eight items (e.g., Vandalism and graffiti are a big problem in this area) asking how the respondents felt about their local neighborhoods (everywhere within a 20-minute walk or about a mile from their houses). Our predictor, loneliness, was operationalized as summed scores of 11-items asking how respondents felt about different aspects of their lives (e.g., How much of the time do you feel isolated from others?). As covariates, this study included age, race/ethnicity, gender, logged wealth, educational attainment, a proportion of non-Hispanic Whites at the census tract level, and neighborhood socioeconomic stressors (a factor of disadvantageous neighborhood conditions, including proportions of those in poverty (.922), female-headed households with children (.781), low education (without high school degree or GED; .682), unemployed (.601), and receiving public assistance (.574; factor loadings in parentheses). We conducted a linear regression analysis to examine the association between loneliness and perceptions of neighborhood disorder.

Results: The average level of perceived neighborhood disorder of the study participants was M = 2.611 (SD = 1.344), and the average level of loneliness was M = 16.670 (SD = 4.522). The bivariate correlation coefficient between perceived neighborhood disorder and loneliness was r = .228 (p < .001). The regression model showed that higher levels of loneliness (B = .064, p < .001) were significantly associated with higher levels of perceived neighborhood disorder after controlling for the covariates. That is, for a one-unit increase in loneliness, the predicted value of perceived neighborhood disorder increases by 0.64. Higher perceived neighborhood disorder was also associated with higher neighborhood stressors (p < .001). Also, proportions of non-Hispanic Whites in census tract were negatively associated with perceived neighborhood disorder (p < .001). Lastly, younger age, being non-Hispanic Blacks, lower wealth (logged) were associated with higher perceived neighborhood disorder.

Conclusions: The recent emergence of neighborhood health research has consistently emphasized the importance of mechanisms to solve this complicated social problem. In line with the previous empirical research, the current study shows that perceived neighborhood disorder is powerfully linked to psychological characteristics. It also provides a practical implication when social workers or other health professionals address the perceived neighborhood disorder of their clients.