Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Shelleby, Elizabeth C.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Neighborhood collective efficacy has emerged as an important predictor of mental health problems, specifically internalizing and externalizing behaviors, among adolescents. Existing research has shown that the association between collective efficacy and mental health problems may differ according to the child’s racial or ethnic background. The present study used structural equation modeling (SEM) to examine the direct associations between collective efficacy at age 9 and internalizing and externalizing symptoms at age 15, while controlling for several demographic variables. Subsequently, a multigroup SEM approach was utilized to explore whether associations between neighborhood collective efficacy at age 9 and externalizing and internalizing symptoms at age 15 differed between three racial and ethnic groups (i.e., non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, and Hispanic). Data were from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS), a longitudinal birth cohort study comprising 4,898 families. In initial models that did not explore racial/ethnic differences, collective efficacy was not significantly associated with lower internalizing or externalizing behaviors, though there were trend-level associations in the hypothesized directions. Results from the multigroup model examining internalizing symptoms demonstrated that collective efficacy was not significantly associated with internalizing behaviors in non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, or Hispanic children. Results from the multigroup model examining externalizing outcomes demonstrated that higher levels of collective efficacy were significantly associated with lower levels of externalizing behaviors for Hispanic and non-Hispanic White children, but not for non-Hispanic Black children, for whom the link between collective efficacy and externalizing behaviors was not significant. Findings from this study highlight that associations between collective efficacy and mental health problems may differ based on a child’s cultural background. Furthermore, important differences between racial/ethnic groups were found, such that non-Hispanic Black children had higher intercept levels of self-reported delinquency, rule-breaking behaviors, aggressive behaviors, followed by Hispanic children and then non-Hispanic White children. Additionally, differences in socioeconomic variables were found in that non-Hispanic Black mothers had the highest level of poverty and lowest level of household income, and were more likely to be single, followed by Hispanic mothers, and lastly by non-Hispanic White mothers. These findings highlight mean level differences (e.g., higher levels of physical disorder, exposure to violence, and poverty in non-Hispanic Black children) that may serve to inform future prevention and intervention methods.


114 pages




Northern Illinois University

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