Neighborhood structural characteristics and social processes have both been shown to directly impact children?s social and emotional competence over and above the influences of more proximal contexts, such as the family. However, much of the neighborhood literature has focused on structural characteristics of the neighborhood, such as concentrated disadvantage and access to resources, despite evidence that structural and social characteristics are interrelated and have unique impacts on children?s social outcomes. Moreover, those few studies examining both structural characteristics and social processes of the neighborhood, have themselves ignored critically important individual level characteristics, most notably genetic risk and developmental timing. The current proposal will address these gaps in the literature, making use of a disadvantaged twin sample to examine: (1) how neighborhood structural characteristics and social processes moderate the etiology of children?s social and emotional competence, and (2) how these gene- environment interactions (GxE) on social and emotional competence may change from middle childhood into adolescence. To accomplish these aims, the current proposal will use advanced behavioral genetic twin models, and in doing so, develop an integrated conceptual model of the ways in which individuals? genetic and developmental characteristics shape children?s social and emotional competence within the context of neighborhoods. By identifying the mechanisms in which neighborhood impacts children?s social and emotional development, these findings should inform prevention and intervention programs targeting aspects of neighborhood context. The proposed fellowship will provide additional training to: (1) gain expertise in neighborhood methodology, (2) hone GxE statistical modeling skills, (3) develop an integrated conceptual theory of the ways in which neighborhood context moderates children?s social and emotional development, (4) strengthen networking, research dissemination, and grant writing skills, and (5) responsibly conduct neighborhood research. My ultimate career goal is to conduct interdisciplinary research to understand how, and by what mechanism(s), the contexts in which children are developing impact their social and emotional competence. My postdoctoral research will move beyond the proximal contexts of families and schools that have characterized my previous work, and focus on the multilevel context of the neighborhood. In this way, I will set the foundation for a career- long research program investigating how nested contextual (family, school, and neighborhoods) influences interact with an individual?s genotype to impact their social and emotional development.

Public Health Relevance

Children?s social and emotional competence has been associated with numerous behavioral outcomes (e.g., problem behaviors, academic success, overall well-being). This proposal will elucidate the mechanisms (genetic or environmental pathways) by which structural characteristics and social processes of the neighborhood influences children?s social and emotional competence over time.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Postdoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F32)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Esposito, Layla E
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Michigan State University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
East Lansing
United States
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