Parents’ Perceptions Of Safety In Public Space And Adolescent Well-Being In Ethiopia, Peru, And Vietnam

Lauren Ferreira Cardoso, University of Pennsylvania


Safety in public space is a critical concern, particularly for women and girls, and these concerns may have consequences for well-being. Most scholarship to date, however, is cross-sectional; little is known about the longer-term impact of perceiving public space as unsafe. Among adolescents, the relationship between safety and well-being is likely influenced by parents. This study used longitudinal analysis to examine the factors that contribute to parents’ perceptions of adolescent safety at age 15, the relationship between these perceptions and adolescent well-being at age 19, and the differences for boys and girls. Data were drawn from Young Lives, a multi-country panel study. The sample included 820 parent/adolescent dyads in Ethiopia, 620 in Peru, and 941 in Vietnam. Descriptive statistics and multivariate regressions were conducted. Perceiving one’s child unsafe in public space was highest in Peru (two in three parents), followed Vietnam (one in three parents), and Ethiopia (one in five parents). In the adjusted analyses, there were two significant findings. In Ethiopia and Peru, girls were more likely than boys to be perceived as unsafe. Adolescents in certain regions of Ethiopia and Vietnam also were more likely to be perceived as unsafe. No associations were detected between parents’ perceptions of adolescent safety at age 15 and adolescent well-being at age 19. Parents’ concerns for adolescent safety are substantial, especially in Peru. Girls’ safety is of particular concern and deserves more public health attention. The regional variation in parents’ perceptions suggests that it is a local phenomenon and requires locally-driven intervention. Although no association between parents’ perceptions of safety and adolescent well-being was found, prior research supports this link. Young Lives provided one of the few data sets equipped to examine this relationship longitudinally, however, it had limitations – offering just a single item measure for safety concerns. Better data is needed. This investigation lays the groundwork for subsequent research, which is needed, and should: utilize a robust measure of perceptions of safety; consider the importance of other community factors (e.g., rates of violence); and test additional measures of well-being; physical and mental health would offer important contributions to the field.