An examination of the role of perceptions in neighborhood research


  • Work on this paper was supported, in part, by grant MH 68920 (Culture, context, and Mexican American mental health) and the Cowden Fellowship program of the School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University. The authors are thankful for the support of Nancy Gonzales, George Knight, Delia Saenz, Marisela Torres, Jaimee Virgo, the La Familia Community Advisory Board and interviewers, and the families who participated in the study. All authors were affiliated with Arizona State University's Prevention Research Center. Roosa and Zeiders are in the School of Social and Family Dynamics; White is in the School of Health Management and Policy; Tein is affiliated with the Psychology Department.


Accumulating research demonstrates that both archival indicators and residents' self-reports of neighborhood conditions are useful predictors of a variety of physical health, mental health, substance use, criminal, and educational outcomes. Although studies have shown these two types of measures are often related, no research has systematically examined their relationship. With a sample of Mexican Americans, this study examined this relationship and demographic factors that might account for variations of residents' perceptions of their neighborhoods. Results showed that country of birth, social class, family structure, and gender moderated relations between archival variables and adults' perceptions of danger. Thus using information from both archival data and self-reports should improve the ability of neighborhood researchers to understand individual differences in responses to neighborhood conditions. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.