Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Measurement and Evaluation

Major Professor

John M. Ferron, Ph.D.

Keywords

Social influences, School effects, Adolescent development, Hierarchical linear modeling, Ecological systems theory

Abstract

Grounded in Bronfenbrenner's (1979) Ecological Systems Theory and through the application of cross-classified random effects models, the goal of this study was to examine simultaneously neighborhood and school influences on adolescent academic achievement and risk of obesity, as well as the moderating effects of schools on these outcomes. By examining concurrently neighborhood and school influences on achievement and risk of obesity, this study aimed to fill gaps in the social determinants literature. For example, it is unclear if where an adolescent lives or where she/he attends school has a stronger influence on academic achievement. We also do not know if schools can moderate neighborhood influences on adolescent achievement, nor do we know much about the relationships among schools, neighborhoods, and adolescent risk for obesity.

Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and the Adolescent Health and Academic Achievement study, four research questions were investigated: (1) To what extent are neighborhood influences on U.S. middle and high school students' academic achievement moderated by school environments? (2) What are the relative influences of neighborhood and school environments on U.S. middle and high school students' academic achievement? (3) To what extent are neighborhood influences on U.S. middle and high school students' risk of obesity moderated by school environments? (4) What are the relative influences of neighborhood and school environments on U.S. middle and high school students' risk of obesity? Findings did not suggest a moderating relationship between neighborhood and school factors examined in this study.

In terms of relative relationships with academic achievement, three neighborhood factors (affluence, racial composition, and urbanicity) and two school characteristics (student body racial composition and school socioeconomic status) appeared to have the strongest relationships with adolescent achievement after controlling for individual and other neighborhood and school characteristics. For adolescent risk of obesity, neighborhood affluence and racial composition had statistically significant unique associations, whereas no school factors evidenced statistically significantly relationships with risk of obesity after controlling for other factors. Results of the study were interpreted in terms of contributions to the social determinants literature, as well as recommendations for the improvement of future large-scale surveys.

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