Methods: This study used a four-step hierarchical regression strategy and baseline data from the Pathways to Desistance Project. To be included in this study, the youth had to live in their community at the time of the interview and identify racially as Black (N=180). Mental health symptoms were assessed using the Brief Symptom Inventory. PNE was assessed using the Neighborhood Conditions Measure. Four connectedness types (family, peer, school, and community) were measured using the Quality of Parental Relationships Inventory; Quality of Relationships Inventory; and Social Capital Inventory; and school attachment items, respectively.
Results: Participants ranged from 14-18-years-old (M=15.91; 77.8% male). About 76% of youth lived in single-parent homes. Step 1 of the hierarchical regression assessed gender, age, and parent index of social position (ISP) and found Black boys reported statistically significant lower mental health symptoms than Black girls (β=-.23, p<.01). Together, gender, age, and parent ISP explained 7% of the variance in mental health symptoms (R2=.07, F(3, 144) =3.49, p< .01). In step 2, PNE was added to the model and explained a statistically significant proportion of variance in mental health symptoms (R2 =.07, F(4, 144) = 2.76, p = .03). Results from the F test showed a statistically significant change from step 1 to step 2 (p< .01). In step 3, connectedness types were added to the model, doubling the amount of variance explained in mental health symptoms (R2 = .14, F(8, 139) = 2.79, p < .01). Results from the F test from step 2 to step 3 were not significant (p = .07). In step 4, a two-way interaction between PNE and parent ISP by gender was included and was significant for girls (β = -.02, p< .05) but not boys. The model with the interaction term explained 16% of the variance in mental health symptoms (R2 = .16, F(10, 137)= 2.65, p = .01). Results from the F test showed a statistically significant change from step 3 to step 4 (p< .05).
Discussion: Findings revealed that PNE significantly increased the model's explanatory power, but connectedness types did not. Additionally, Black boys reported lower mental health symptoms than girls. Differences by gender emerged in the interaction between PNE and parent ISP. Future research should explore approaches to address the mental health needs of Black girls involved in the JJ system and explore how PNE and parent ISP may be impactful.