Neighborhood Stress and Substance Use in Disadvantaged Inner City Mothers: an Examination of Executive Functioning as a Moderator

Open Access
Kilkelly, Brian Francis
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Sandra T Azar, Thesis Supervisor
  • William Ray, Honors Advisor
  • Neighborhood stress
  • substance use
  • executive functioning
Abstract Substance use in urban disadvantaged mothers and neighborhood stress were examined in this study. It was posited that higher levels of neighborhood stress can lead to a withdrawal from the environment in the form of substance use, and that executive functioning capacity moderates this relationship. The sample was comprised of 55 low IQ, urban, disadvantaged mothers, an understudied population in substance use research. Neighborhood stress was measured in two ways, through participants’ perception of crime and through actual levels of assault rate in the census tract in which they reside. It was posited that: 1.) as neighborhood stress level increases, participants’ substance use will increase 2.) as executive functioning capacity increases, substance use will decrease, and 3.) mothers’ executive functioning capacity would moderate the relationship between neighborhood stress level and substance use (i.e. that mothers with higher executive functioning will exhibit less substance use when faced with higher levels of neighborhood stress). Results showed that, as predicted, participants’ perception of crime in their environment was positively related to substance use (r = .260, p< .05). No statistically significant relationship, however, was found between the number of assaults per 1000 people in mothers’ census tract and substance use. Contrary to the study’s second hypothesis, no statistically significant relationship was found between executive functioning and substance use. Regression analyses produced no support for executive functioning as a moderator. Additional analyses were done using an alternative measurement of participants’ stress to further explore the moderation hypothesis, though these also failed to show moderation effects. Implications for women’s substance use are discussed and future directions outlined.