In the Mix, Yet on the Margins: The Place of Families in Urban Neighborhood and Child Development Research



In the 1990s, the most popular theoretical and empirical research issue concerning the local ecologies of families focused on the impact of family structures (e.g., household composition) and processes (e.g., child management strategies) on the relationship between urban neighborhoods and child and adolescent development. In this article, we synthesize and critically examine the decade's prevailing literature on the topic, organizing this review into three areas: (a) the research designs of quantitative and ethnographic studies of urban neighborhoods, families, and child outcomes; (b) the conceptual approaches used in these studies; and (c) the role of structural and behavioral features of family and parenting as factors that influence the relationship between urban neighborhoods and child development in ethnically and racially diverse populations. Results suggest that although family has been center stage in the neighborhood effects research question of the decade, it has remained on the margins in terms of theoretical and methodological specificity. Recommendations for future research are also offered.