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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2006 Mar;14(3):518-25.

Neighborhood safety, collective efficacy, and obesity in women with young children.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Division of Gastroenterology and Nutrition, 3535 Market Street, Room 1578, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.



To test the hypothesis that mothers of young children would have a higher prevalence of obesity if they lived in neighborhoods that they perceived as unsafe or as having a low level of collective efficacy.


Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a cross-sectional analysis was conducted of 2445 women living in 20 large (population > or = 200,000) U.S. cities. BMI was measured on 72% and self-reported on 28%. Perception of neighborhood safety was assessed with the Neighborhood Environment for Children Rating Scales. The collective efficacy measure was adapted from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods.


Thirty percent of the women were married, 38% lived below the U.S. poverty threshold, and 66% reported no education beyond high school. Approximately one-half of the women were non-Hispanic black, and one-fourth were Hispanic (any race). After adjustment for sociodemographic factors (household income, education, race/ethnicity, age, and marital status), smoking, depression, and television time, the prevalence of obesity (BMI > or = 30 kg/m2) increased across tertiles of neighborhood safety from safest to least safe (37% vs. 41% vs. 46%, p = 0.004) but did not differ across tertiles of collective efficacy from highest to lowest (41% vs. 40% vs. 42%, p = 0.67).


In a national sample of women with young children, obesity was more prevalent among those who perceived their neighborhoods to be unsafe.

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