Neighborhood risk

Scale: Communities That Care (CTC) Youth Survey — Community Disorganization subscale

What it measures:

  • Aspects of a neighborhood (e.g., rates of crime, drug use, physical deterioration) linked with higher rates of juvenile crime and drug use.

Intended age range: 11- to 18-year-olds.

Brief description: The Community Disorganization scale consists of 5 items. Respondents are asked to what extent each item describes their neighborhoods with sample items including: “Crime and/or drug selling,” “Fights,” and “Lots of empty or abandoned buildings.” Youth respond on a 4-point scale: NO!, no, yes, or YES!

Rationale: This scale was selected based on its brevity as well as its evidence of reliability and validity across both males and females and diverse racial and ethnic groups.

Cautions: Some items may be less germane to rural neighborhoods and thus it may be advisable to consider minor modifications when using the scale with youth from these settings. For example, the above noted item asking about abandoned buildings could be amended to include “Lots of empty or abandoned buildings or houses.” Additionally, a definition of graffiti “(e.g., writing and pictures on walls or other places where they are not allowed)” may be helpful to add to the item asking about its presence in the neighborhood, particularly when using the scale with younger youth as they may have limited familiarity with this term. Finally, it should be noted that a high level of risk conditions within a neighborhood does not imply a low level of protective resources as these can and do often exist in neighborhoods with features asked about on this scale.

Special administration information: None.

How to score: Each item is scored from 1 (NO!)  to 4 (YES!), with the exception of one reverse-coded item (i.e., “I feel safe in my neighborhood”). The total score is computed by the averaging across all items.

How to interpret findings: Higher scores reflect greater neighborhood risk.

Access and permissions: The measure is available for non-commercial use with no charge and the items can be accessed online on page 3 here.

Alternatives: None recommended.

Citation: Arthur, M. W., Hawkins, J. D., Pollard, J. A., Catalano, R. F., & Baglioni, A. J., Jr. (2002). Measuring risk and protective factors for substance use, delinquency, and other adolescent problem behaviors: The Communities That Care Youth Survey. Evaluation Review, 26, 575–601.


Request no-cost help for your program

Advanced Search