Subjective Constructions of Neighborhood Boundaries: Lessons from a Qualitative Study of Four Neighborhoods

Elizabeth Campbell, Julia R. Henly, Delbert S. Elliott, Katherine Irwin
2009 Journal of Urban Affairs  
This article explores the boundaries of neighborhoods as subjectively constructed by 37 adolescents and 33 parents across four census-defined block groups in a Western city. We examine the degree of consensus among participants on the spatial boundaries of their neighborhoods, the stability of participants' subjectively constructed neighborhood definitions, and the overlap between subjectively constructed definitions and census block group and tract definitions. Through an analysis of
more » ... e interviews, we isolate four factors that appear to influence how participants define their neighborhood boundaries: physical and institutional characteristics of the neighborhood, its class, race, and ethnic composition, perceived criminal threats from within and outside the neighborhood, and symbolic neighborhood identities. These factors can operate to facilitate or compromise consensus and stability about neighborhood boundaries and identity. The study findings are exploratory but suggest several avenues for further investigation into how parents and adolescents construct neighborhood boundaries and the possible influences that subjective neighborhood definitions have on families. Neighborhood has long been recognized as a defining social context of American life (e.g.,
doi:10.1111/j.1467-9906.2009.00450.x fatcat:kjpznxszqzhcfopozfqb23ynam