Sharkey, P. T.
Sharkey, P. T. (2006). Navigating dangerous streets: The sources and consequences of street efficacy. American Sociological Review, 71(5), 826–846.
The concept of street efficacy, defined as the perceived ability to avoid violent confrontations and to be safe in one's neighborhood, is proposed as a mechanism connecting aspects of adolescents'“imposed” environments to the choices they make in creating their own “selected” environments that minimize the potential for violent confrontations. Empirical models using data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods suggest that street efficacy is substantially influenced by various aspects of the social context surrounding adolescents. Adolescents who live in neighborhoods with concentrated disadvantage and low collective efficacy, respectively, are found to have less confidence in their ability to avoid violence after controlling for an extensive set of individual- and family-level factors. Exposure to violence also reduces street efficacy, although it does not explain the association between collective efficacy and individual street efficacy. Adolescents' confidence in their ability to avoid violence is shown to be an important predictor of the types of environments they select for themselves. In particular, adolescents with high levels of street efficacy are less likely to resort to violence themselves or to associate with delinquent peers.
Using several analytical models, the author finds preliminary evidence that street efficacy, or confidence in avoiding violence, is associated with lower levels of violence and delinquency. Various characteristics of the adolescent, their family, and the community combine to influence the adolescent’s confidence in their ability to be involved in public life and avoid violence. The adolescent’s confidence level seems to play a vital role in influencing the character of the places and people they associate with. The choices made by adolescents appear to be shaped by various aspects of the surrounding social environments and do not arise simply from within. Adolescents that experience violence are less confident in their ability to avoid it in the future. The way the community supports and monitors local youth and the presence of structural disadvantage influences how adolescents see the potential for violence in their neighborhood environment.
Description of method used in the article
The researcher used data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN) to create a metric for street efficacy, based on five survey items that measured adolescents' perceived ability to avoid violence and remain safe.
Of practical use