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Child Dev. 2002 Jul-Aug;73(4):1283-309.

Some ways in which neighborhoods, nuclear families, friendship groups, and schools jointly affect changes in early adolescent development.

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  • 1Department of Sociology and Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208-4100, USA.


This study assessed some ways in which schools, neighborhoods, nuclear families, and friendship groups jointly contribute to positive change during early adolescence. For each context, existing theory was used to develop a multiattribute index that should promote successful development. Descriptive analyses showed that the four resulting context indices were only modestly intercorrelated at the individual student level (N = 12,398), but clustered more tightly at the school and neighborhood levels (N = 23 and 151 respectively). Only for aggregated units did knowing the developmental capacity of any one context strongly predict the corresponding capacity of the other contexts. Analyses also revealed that each context facilitated individual change in a success index that tapped into student academic performance, mental health, and social behavior. However, individual context effects were only modest in size over the 19 months studied and did not vary much by context. The joint influence of all four contexts was cumulatively large, however, and because it was generally additive in form, no constellation of contexts was identified whose total effect reliably surpassed the sum of its individual context main effects. These results suggest that achieving significant population changes in multidimensional student growth during early adolescence most likely requires both theory and interventions that are explicitly pan-contextual.

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