Neighborhood Parks and Playgrounds: Risky or Protective Contexts for Youth Substance Use?


Neighborhood parks and playgrounds are thought to reduce the stressors of disorganized urban environments by adding greenspace and fostering community cohesion, and, in doing so, may reduce crime and delinquency. Yet, they may also foster criminal behaviors, including substance use, as they can provide areas for would-be offenders to gather without surveillance or fear of being caught. This study provides one of the first examinations of the relationship between the number of parks and playgrounds in a neighborhood and adolescent substance use. To do so, we analyze data from 1,584 youth living in 76 neighborhoods in Chicago. Using multivariate, multilevel Rasch models that control for many other factors that may affect adolescent substance use, we find that youth living in areas with more parks and playgrounds have a greater odds of engaging in substance use compared with those living in areas with fewer parks and centers.

Document Type





delinquency, drugs, neighborhood parks, neighborhoods, social disorganization, substance use

Publication Date


Journal Title

Journal of Drug Issues