Being Poorer Than the Rest of the Neighborhood: Relative Deprivation and Problem Behavior of Youth

Jaap Nieuwenhuis, Maarten van Ham, Rongqin Yu, Susan Branje, Wim Meeus, Pieter Hooimeijer

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    32 Citations (Scopus)
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    According to the neighborhood effects hypothesis, there is a negative relation between neighborhood wealth and youth’s problem behavior. It is often assumed that there are more problems in deprived neighborhoods, but there are also reports of higher rates of behavioral problems in more affluent neighborhoods. Much of this literature does not take into account relative wealth. Our central question was whether the economic position of adolescents’ families, relative to the neighborhood in which they lived, was related to adolescents’ internalizing and externalizing problem behavior. We used longitudinal data for youth between 12–16 and 16–20 years of age, combined with population register data (N = 926; 55% females). We employ between-within models to account for time-invariant confounders, including parental background characteristics. Our findings show that, for adolescents, moving to a more affluent neighborhood was related to increased levels of depression, social phobia, aggression, and conflict with fathers and mothers. This could be indirect evidence for the relative deprivation mechanism, but we could not confirm this, and we did not find any gender differences. The results do suggest that future research should further investigate the role of individuals’ relative position in their neighborhood in order not to overgeneralize neighborhood effects and to find out for whom neighborhoods matter.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1891-1904
    JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence: a multidisciplinary research publication
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    • Externalizing problems
    • Internalizing problems
    • Neighborhood effects
    • Parent–adolescent conflict
    • Relative deprivation
    • Residential mobility


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