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

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2006 Mar;14(3):518-25. doi: 10.1038/oby.2006.67.


Objective: 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.

Research methods and procedures: 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.

Results: 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).

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

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Crime / prevention & control
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise / psychology
  • Female
  • Group Processes*
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Perception
  • Prevalence
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Safety*
  • Socioeconomic Factors