Jisuk Seon, PhD

Neighborhood Effects on Child Maltreatment Among Immigrant Families

Child maltreatment is a significant public health concern. Previous research on factors
that influence child maltreatment has focused largely on child and familial characteristics.
Emerging research on the etiology of child maltreatment has been examining the way in which
neighborhood affects child maltreatment, such as neighborhood structural characteristics and
neighborhood social processes. One of the major gaps in the research on the impact of
neighborhood on child abuse and neglect is the examination of immigrant families. Following
social disorganization theory, this study explored the relationships between neighborhood
structural characteristics, neighborhood social processes, and child maltreatment among
immigrant families. This study used the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study Wave 1 and
Wave 4, and examined a total of 372 foreign-born mothers and their children living in 325
neighborhoods in 20 large U.S. cities.
A multilevel structural equation model demonstrated that foreign-born mothers living in
neighborhoods with higher levels of negative structural characteristics reported higher levels of
physical assault, higher psychological aggression, and higher neglect. Conversely, foreign-born
mothers having higher levels of positive social processes reported lower levels of physical
assault, lower psychological aggression, and lower neglect. However, neighborhood social
processes mediated the relationships between neighborhood structural characteristics and
physical assault and psychological aggression among immigrant families, respectively.
These results highlight the positive role of neighborhood social processes in reducing
child maltreatment among immigrant families, even in disadvantaged neighborhoods. They also
suggest that ecological multitier social work interventions that consider immigrants’ cultural
contexts may deserve attention as possibly effective in reducing maltreatment of children in
immigrant families.