Could neighbourhood characteristics be good predictors of adolescents’ levels of self-efficacy and wellbeing?

A neighbourhood is a place where a person spends most of their free time with family or relatives and engages in community activities. Neighbourhoods differ from each other as some are located in unusual geographical locations or have interesting demographic characteristics. Therefore, the environment of a neighbourhood has a great influence on the well-being of the residents and how they contribute to social unity [1]. However, exposure to stressors could distress the levels of self-efficacy among adolescents [2]. This essay is going to examine whether neighbourhoods can affect the future opportunities of adolescents, taking into account their mental health and wellbeing. Moreover, this essay is going to display that some factors such as violence and collective efficacy could be crucial for the future development of a neighbourhood [2].

Self- and collective efficacy

Self-efficacy refers to the capability to control your life and reach a certain scale of satisfaction with one’s goals [3]. To develop a better community and also improve their self-efficacy, the residents of a specific neighbourhood could be more active through community channels such as groups on social platforms, and social gatherings. For the younger generation, this could also be implemented through meetings in schools, visiting the community centre to engage with other community members, and also through one of the simplest ways, namely meeting friends from the neighbourhood [2]. Since some neighbourhoods are not as well-developed as others, it could be challenging to build the right social infrastructure for adolescents. Therefore, some communities have a higher degree of social capital, namely they can achieve their goals more sufficiently with the support of the community [3]. However, higher levels of social capital, namely the resources and the support of fellow community members, might result in a clash between control and individual choice [3]. Taking this into account, adolescents might also feel controlled by their community to behave in a specific way, namely a socially desirable one [3].

I would like to introduce the term collective efficacy, which refers to the ability of a neighbourhood’s persistency to achieve its common goals [2]. This concept is closely related to the concept of self-efficacy, mentioned previously. Taking this into account, neighbourhoods can turn into a beautiful living environment where people engage in different events, learn from each other and also interact with diverse cultures and habits [4]. This is extremely beneficial for adolescents because their neighbourhood has a significant effect on their future outcomes in life [2]. For example, an adolescent that lives in a socially strong neighbourhood has the chance to talk with more people and obtain more experience with the elderly, thus promoting their importance in the community and also demonstrating that they could live calmly without any fear or anxiety.

Not a perfect world

The examples above are applicable in the scenario for a perfect neighbourhood, and most of the time we could imagine that this isn’t the case. Factors such as violence and lack of institutions in the neighbourhood could be crucial for the lower self-efficacy of adolescents and health [2]. Violence in a neighbourhood could lead to a feeling of being stuck and not able to improve future life perspectives while a lack of facilities such as community centres and schools could influence the mental health of adolescents negatively [2]. Nevertheless, adolescents need to feel mentally and physically healthy. However, health issues could also be caused by the long distances, reliance on personal vehicles for transport, and insufficient diet, something typical for the US [5]. 

“Factors such as violence and lack of institutions in the neighbourhood could be crucial for the lower self-efficacy of adolescents and health”

It is possible to move out of a neighbourhood to regain emotional balance and reshape future living standards since the living environment could affect the self-efficacy of adolescents [2]. This is called mobility and in some cases moving out of a particular neighbourhood may be an improvement for someone’s self-efficacy [2]. However, people with lower incomes would maintain lower levels of self-efficacy even when they change their neighbourhood [6]. In this case, adolescents from a poorer background would feel even more disadvantaged because their parents have fewer financial opportunities to change their neighbourhood and then they could experience severe problems such as depression [2]. On the other hand, we have families with higher socio-economic status whose children have a better chance to succeed in life and maintain high self-efficacy since their environment accommodates them to be around other people with well-developed self-efficacy [7]. For instance, an adolescent who is from a low-income family would not be able to socialize with his neighbourhood’s community because they would feel helpless and unsuccessful which will harm his future outlook on life. The feeling of being trapped will remain and instead of interacting with the community, the adolescent would be focused only on escaping the environment. Moreover, for some adolescents access to the community’s resources might be less accessible due to their location in a neighbourhood, causing a greater gap in community engagement for some adolescents and also their families that reside in this specific area [4]. If a person lives in a big neighbourhood and is of lower economic status, it could be hard to engage in different community events since they might require contributing with money that goes back to the community. This will make the gap between the people even larger and divide their choice of whom to support socially. 

“A neighbourhood is not only where we live but also the place where a community is shaped, where individuals should enjoy their living environment and develop better chances for future generations.”

More than just a place

To conclude, this essay observed neighbourhood characteristics and how they could affect the future life of adolescents. Since this age category is vulnerable to factors such as lack of direct support from the community and violence, neighborhood must develop good mechanisms to prevent young people from leaving them [2]. Moreover, neighbourhoods with higher levels of collective efficacy have better conditions in which adolescents could develop [2]. Therefore, community disengagement is extremely detrimental to everyone’s self-efficacy and health, especially adolescents. As someone who opposed the argument that neighbourhoods could affect someone’s self-efficacy, I found out that my own neighbourhood in my home country is indeed not a supportive community since people are only focused on their individuality and don’t take into account the importance of a good infrastructure for adolescents healthy progress in life. Taking this into consideration, this might be why not so many young families move into my neighbourhood to raise their children since there are not that many schools. A neighbourhood is not only where we live but also the place where a community is shaped, where individuals should enjoy their living environment and develop better chances for future generations.


[1] Jivraj, S., Norman, P., Nicholas, O., & Murray, E. T. (2019). Are there sensitive neighbourhood effect periods during the life course on midlife health and wellbeing? Health & Place, 57, 147–156.

[2] Dupéré, V., Leventhal, T., & Vitaro, F. (2012). Neighborhood Processes, Self-Efficacy, and Adolescent Mental Health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 53(2), 183–198.

[3] Carpiano, R. M., & Kimbro, R. T. (2012). Neighborhood Social Capital, Parenting Strain, and Personal Mastery among Female Primary Caregivers of Children. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 53(2), 232–247.

[4] Bernard, P., Charafeddine, R., Frohlich, K. L., Daniel, M., Kestens, Y., & Potvin, L. (2007). Health inequalities and place: A theoretical conception of neighbourhood. Social Science & Medicine, 65(9), 1839–1852.

[5] Mirowsky, J., & Ross, C. E. (2015). Education, Health, and the Default American Lifestyle. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 56(3), 297–306.

[6] Rosenbaum, J. E., Reynolds, L., & Deluca, S. (2002). How Do Places Matter? The Geography of Opportunity, Self-efficacy and a Look Inside the Black Box of Residential Mobility. Housing Studies, 17(1), 71–82.

[7] Boardman, J. D., & Robert, S. A. (2000). Neighborhood Socioeconomic Status and Perceptions of Self-Efficacy. Sociological Perspectives, 43(1), 117–136.

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