UTSPH research shows child behavior is influenced by physical environment

Researchers from The University of Texas School of Public Health examined how conditions in the neighborhood around a child’s home can influence behavioral outcomes. Study findings support the importance of addressing the physical and social environment when planning community-level interventions to reduce child behavior problems.

Dr. Margaret Caughy web 214x300 | UTSPH research shows child behavior is influenced by physical environment

Margaret Caughy, ScD

Poor physical conditions within one quarter to one half miles from the child’s home were related to more behavioral problems, even after taking into consideration child and family characteristics. In addition, children who lived in close proximity to other children with behavior problems had higher level behavior problems themselves.

Margaret Caughy, ScD, associate professor at The University of Texas School of Public Health Dallas Regional Campus said, “This research is important because the findings can inform community-level efforts to improve the well-being of children.”

The neighborhood studied was a low income, ethnic minority neighborhood of approximately 20,000 residents in a large city in the southwestern United States. Observational data were collected for 11,552 parcels and 1,778 face blocks in the neighborhood over a five week period. Data on child behavior problems were collected from the parents of 261 school-age children (81% African American, 14% Latino) living in the neighborhood.

Spatial analysis methods were used to examine the spatial dependence of child behavior problems in relation to physical conditions in the neighborhood for areas surrounding the child’s home ranging from a radius of 50 meters to a radius of 1000 meters. Likewise, the spatial dependence of child behavior problems in relation to the behavior problems of neighborhood peers was observed for areas ranging from a radius 255 meters to a radius of 600 meters around the child’s home. The joint influence of neighborhood physical conditions and geographic peers was also studied.

Authors Tammy Leonard, Kurt Beron and James Murdoch from The University of Texas at Dallas School of Economics contributed data analysis to this study which was funded by the National Science Foundation.