Date of Award

Summer 2022

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Heather A Turner

Second Advisor

David Finkelhor

Third Advisor

Rebecca Glauber


Sociological research on mental health is often guided by the stress process framework. A key tenet of this paradigm is the proposition that both exposure and vulnerability to social stressors arise from one’s placement in the social structure; those with lower social status face greater exposure and/or greater vulnerability to stressors that detrimentally impact their psychological wellbeing. A consequential social stressor is the neighborhood context in which one resides. Past research has suggested a disadvantageous effect of greater neighborhood physical and social disorder on youth mental health. This research employs the stress process framework to examine how the effects of neighborhood disorder on adolescent psychological distress may vary by two core social statuses: gender and race/ethnicity. This study employed a pooled sample from two waves of the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV) (N=4407). Hierarchical linear regression was used to test the main effects of neighborhood disorder on adolescent internalizing and externalizing symptoms, the moderating effects of gender and race/ethnicity, and the potential mediating pathways of social and personal resources. Findings demonstrated significant main effects of neighborhood disorder on both internalizing and externalizing symptoms of distress. There were also conditional effects of neighborhood disorder on internalizing symptoms with a stronger association found for girls than for boys. In tests of moderating effects of race/ethnicity, the results were less definitive. For internalizing symptoms of psychological distress, finding showed that the negative effects of neighborhood disorder on mental health were marginally lower for African American youth when compared with White youth. As seen with gender, no interaction effects were found for externalizing symptoms. Family support, self-esteem, and mastery all significantly mediated the effect of neighborhood disorder on both internalizing and externalizing symptoms with the largest indirect effect found for mastery. This dissertation adds to the body of accumulating research on neighborhood effects for adolescents by describing more fully the relationship between neighborhood disorder and two indicators of psychological well-being, and reinforces the importance of neighborhood context for adolescents’ development. It also offers a contribution to sociological understandings of the stress process and the interplay between social status, resources, and mental health.