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Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2012 Jun;47(6):985-92. doi: 10.1007/s00127-011-0406-4. Epub 2011 Jun 12.

Cognitive ability, neighborhood deprivation, and young children's emotional and behavioral problems.

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Department of Psychology and Human Development, Institute of Education, University of London, 25 Woburn Square, London, WC1H 0AA, UK.



To examine if cognitive ability moderates the effect of area (neighborhood) deprivation on young children's problem behavior.


Data from the first two sweeps of the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) in the UK were used. Children were clustered in small areas in nine strata in the UK and were aged 9 months at Sweep 1 and 3 years at Sweep 2. Neighborhood deprivation was measured with the Index of Multiple Deprivation at Sweep 1. Overall and specific problem behavior was measured with the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire at Sweep 2. To explore moderator specificity we used three indices of ability (verbal cognitive ability, non-verbal cognitive ability, and attainment of developmental milestones). Adjustment was made for child's age and sex, and for Sweep 1 family adversity (number of adverse life events), family structure, mother's social class and psychological distress, and family socio-economic disadvantage.


We found both support for our main hypothesis, and evidence for specificity. Neighborhood deprivation was, even after adjustment for covariates, significantly associated with children's peer problems. However, verbal and non-verbal cognitive ability moderated this association.


Neighborhood deprivation was related to peer problems even at preschool age. Although the effect of neighborhood deprivation on externalizing problems was mediated by family poverty and parental socio-economic position and although its effect on internalizing problems was mediated by parental mental health, its effect on difficulties with peers was independent of both parental and child characteristics. Cognitive ability moderated the effect of neighborhood deprivation on preschoolers' peer relationships difficulties.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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