Neighborhood and Gender Effects on Family Processes: Results From the Moving to Opportunity Program*

Published date01 December 2005
AuthorJeanne Brooks‐Gunn,Tama Leventhal
Date01 December 2005
Neighborhood and Gender Effects on Family Processes:
Results From the Moving to Opportunity Program*
Tama Leventhal Jeanne Brooks-Gunn**
Abstract: Data from the New York City Moving to Opportunity 3-year follow-up were used to examine neighbor-
hood and gender effects on adolescents’ family processes. Low-income, minority families in public housing in high-
poverty neighborhoods were assigned randomly to (a) move to private housing in low-poverty neighborhoods only,
(b) move to private housing in neighborhoods of their choice, or (c) stay in place. Family processes, assessed by par-
ent reports and interviewer observations, were compared for those who relocated and those who stayed in place. Par-
ents in the low-poverty group were observed to be harsher toward their daughters than parents in the high-poverty
group. In adolescence, residential relocation may be difficult for mother-daughter relations and require additional
services to ease the transition.
Key Words: adolescence, communities, gender, parent-child relations, poverty, social policy.
The social contexts in which families are embedded
are thought to affect the nature of relationships
among family members (Teachman & Crowder,
2002). For families with adolescent children, the
communities where they live are one such con-
text that may impact their interaction patterns
(Furstenberg, Cook, Eccles, Elder, & Sameroff,
1999; Jencks & Mayer, 1990). Neighborhoods may
play a role by organizing opportunities for social
interactions and activities. However, families con-
tinue to be the dominant force in adolescents’ lives
(Steinberg, 2001). Thus, how community and family
contexts intersect has important implications for
relations among family members. Both of these
influences—family and neighborhood—may vary
by gender during adolescence, when gender differen-
ces become pronounced (Galambos, 2004).
The focus of the present study is on this com-
plex intersection. Specifically, we consider how
neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) and gen-
der independently and jointly affect parent-child in-
teractions. To address these issues, we use 3-year
follow-up data from a residential mobility experi-
ment in which low-income, minority families living
in public housing in high-poverty urban neighbor-
hoods were assigned to (a) move to private housing
in low-poverty neighborhoods, (b) move to private
housing in neighborhoods of their choice, or (c) stay
in public housing.
Literature Review
Neighborhood Socioeconomic Effects on
Adolescents’ Family Processes
Our theoretical understanding of how neighbor-
hood SES, particularly concentrated poverty, is
*The authors would like to thank the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Russell Sage Foundation for their support. We are also grateful to
the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the NICHD Research Network on Child and Family
Well-Being, and the Center for Health and Well-being at PrincetonUniversity. We are especially thankful to John Goering for his support throughout this project. We
also would like to thank the staff at Schulman, Ronca, and Bucuvalas, Inc., for their role in data collection and preparation. We are indebted to Judie Feins and Debi
McInnis of Abt Associates, Inc., for technical assistance throughout this project. In addition, we are grateful to Greg Duncan, Tom Cook, Bob Crain, Rebecca Fauth, Jeff
Kling, and Phil Thompson for their comments and suggestions throughout the study; Rebecca Fauthalso provided helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article.
**Tama Leventhal is an Associate Research Scientist, Institute for Policy Studies and an Assistant Professor, Bloomberg School of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins
University, 3400 N Charles Street, Wyman Building, Baltimore, MD 21218 ( Jeanne Brooks-Gunn is a Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor of
Child Development and Education at Columbia University.
Family Relations, 54 (December 2005), 633–643. Blackwell Publishing. Printed in the USA.
Copyright 2005 by the National Council on Family Relations.

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