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31-03-2017 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 9/2017 Open Access

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 9/2017

Being Poorer Than the Rest of the Neighborhood: Relative Deprivation and Problem Behavior of Youth

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 9/2017
Jaap Nieuwenhuis, Maarten van Ham, Rongqin Yu, Susan Branje, Wim Meeus, Pieter Hooimeijer


According to the neighborhood effects hypothesis, there is a negative relation between neighborhood wealth and youth’s problem behavior. It is often assumed that there are more problems in deprived neighborhoods, but there are also reports of higher rates of behavioral problems in more affluent neighborhoods. Much of this literature does not take into account relative wealth. Our central question was whether the economic position of adolescents’ families, relative to the neighborhood in which they lived, was related to adolescents’ internalizing and externalizing problem behavior. We used longitudinal data for youth between 12–16 and 16–20 years of age, combined with population register data (N = 926; 55% females). We employ between-within models to account for time-invariant confounders, including parental background characteristics. Our findings show that, for adolescents, moving to a more affluent neighborhood was related to increased levels of depression, social phobia, aggression, and conflict with fathers and mothers. This could be indirect evidence for the relative deprivation mechanism, but we could not confirm this, and we did not find any gender differences. The results do suggest that future research should further investigate the role of individuals’ relative position in their neighborhood in order not to overgeneralize neighborhood effects and to find out for whom neighborhoods matter.

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