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Community disadvantage, inequalities in adolescent subjective well-being, and local social relations: The role of positive and negative social interactions

James Laurence

Social Science & Medicine, 2019, vol. 237, issue C, -

Abstract: Studies identify the existence of inequalities in adolescent subjective well-being (SWB) across levels of community socio-economic disadvantage. One posited explanation is that community disadvantage harms SWB through undermining positive social relations among residents (often termed social capital). However, social relations can be both positive and negative; for example, social interactions between residents can be friendly or unfriendly, or involve being helped or harmed. Little work has explored negative social relations in communities and their impact on SWB. This study therefore examines the role that local negative social relations may play, alongside positive relations, in understanding inequalities in SWB across communities. Data are taken from a nationally representative survey of 16–17-year olds in England in 2015. Applying multilevel models, findings demonstrate that adolescents living in more disadvantaged communities exhibit lower SWB. In line with current theories, part of this association can be accounted for by weaker positive social relations: the results show that while positive local interactions are important for youth SWB (primarily via higher neighbour trust), young people in more disadvantaged communities report fewer local positive social interactions. However, the models also demonstrate that part of the negative association between community disadvantage and SWB is also accounted for by stronger negative social relations: the results show that negative local interactions are harmful for youth SWB (both directly, and indirectly via lower neighbour-trust), and young people in disadvantaged communities report more frequent negative local social interactions. Importantly, the negative indirect-effect of community disadvantage via increasing negative social interactions is almost twice as strong as the negative indirect-effect of disadvantage via reducing positive interactions. Taken together, community disadvantage appears to harm SWB not only by reducing positive relations but also increasing negative relations. These form dual, independent, social relations pathways through which community disadvantage affects SWB.

Keywords: Subjective well-being; Adolescence; Communities; Inequality; Positive and negative social relations; Social capital; Socio-economic disadvantage; Social interactions (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.112442

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