• Support for this publication was provided by NIH grant no. 1R01MD006064-01 (Dr. Osypuk, PI) and an award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U49-CE00740, Dr. Hemenway, PI). The Boston Youth Survey was conducted by the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center in collaboration with the City of Boston (the Honorable Thomas M. Menino, Mayor), the Boston Public Health Commission (Barbara Ferrer, Executive Director) and the Boston Public Schools.

  • The authors do not have any conflicts of interest to declare.

  • Nicole M. Schmidt, PhD, and Theresa L. Osypuk, ScD, SM, conceived the hypotheses and interpreted results, drafted and revised the manuscript, and Dr. Schmidt additionally analyzed the data. Eric Tchetgen Tchetgen, PhD, advised on the statistical analysis and interpretation of results, and edited the manuscript. Amy Ehntholt, SM, contributed to the data analysis and manuscript editing. Joanna Almeida, ScD, and Quynh C. Nguyen, PhD, contributed to interpreting results and editing. Beth E. Molnar, ScD, and Deborah Azrael, PhD, contributed to the design of the Boston Neighborhood Survey, the acquisition of the data for these analyses, interpretation of results, and editing. All authors approved the final submitted version.


There is an increased interest in how neighborhood social processes, such as collective efficacy, may protect mental health. Yet little is known about how stable these neighborhood processes are over time, or how to change them to influence other downstream factors. We used a population-based, repeat cross-sectional study of adults (n = 5135) to assess stability of collective efficacy for families in 38 Boston neighborhoods across 4 years (2006, 2008, 2010; the Boston Neighborhood Survey). We test temporal stability of collective efficacy for families across and within neighborhoods using 2-level random effects linear regression, fixed effects linear regression, t tests, and Wilcoxon-signed rank tests. Across the different methods, neighborhood collective efficacy for families remained stable across 4 years, after adjustment for neighborhood composition. If neighborhood collective efficacy is measured within 4 years of the exposure period of interest, assuming temporal stability may be valid.