Online Program

Adolescents' Perceptions of Safety and Community Social Trust: A Philadelphia Case

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 9:00 a.m. - 9:15 a.m.

Kalen Flynn, MSW, MSSP, School of Social Policy & Practice, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Douglas J. Wiebe, PhD, Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

The built and social environment of communities impact adolescent health outcomes in a plethora of ways, including emotional and physical well-being. While it is known that objective conditions of neighborhoods impact perceptions of safety, little is known about how perceptions of safety vary as a function of community social trust.


GIS-assisted interviews were conducted with 139 African American males, aged 10-18, in Philadelphia. Subjects mapped their daily activities and reported their perceived safety. Activity paths were overlaid on mapped layers of the built and social environment. Social trust was built as a census-tract level composite variable using several indicators from a telephone survey. Mixed effects regression estimated how subjects’ perceived safety varied as a function of social trust, controlling for age and other confounding variables.


Results showed that when compared to spending time in areas in the lowest tertile of social trust, older adolescents were 73 percent more likely to feel unsafe (p < 0.01) when in areas with medium social trust and 89 percent more likely to feel unsafe (p < 0.01) when in areas of high social trust.


Our results call into question the protective nature of social trust in regards to perceptions of safety. Community-level interventions intended to improve feelings of safety among adolescents should take into account subjective features of the environment and levels of social trust.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the impact of community-level social trust on adolescent perceptions of safety.

Keyword(s): Violence & Injury Prevention, Adolescents

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a PhD student in Social Welfare working with a leading researcher in epidemiology.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.