Report: Stress from Living in Poor Quality Housing Impacts Children's Wellbeing

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According to recent issue brief published by the MacArthur Foundation, parents’ stress from living in poor quality and unstable homes takes a toll on children’s wellbeing. The brief, entitled Poor Quality Housing Is Tied to Children’s Emotional and Behavioral Problems, is part of the MacArthur Foundation's "How Housing Matters" effort.

The brief examines how housing characteristics impact the wellbeing of children and families. Poor housing quality was the most consistent and strongest predictor of emotional and behavioral problems in low-income children and youth. According to the brief, housing conditions are critical for children because of the way the stress of living in unhealthy and unsafe conditions affects parenting. 

The brief's key findings include:

  • Poor housing quality is the most consistent and strongest predictor of emotional and behavioral problems in low-income children and youth among the five housing characteristics studied (quality, stability, affordability, ownership, and receiving a housing subsidy).
  • Residential instability also is important for children’s wellbeing.
  • Even though much of the sample struggled with housing costs, unaffordability has little discernible link to children’s wellbeing.
  • Much of the association between poor quality and unstable housing and children’s wellbeing operates through parental stress and parenting behaviors. 

The brief affirms what the Healthy Homes Coalition has been saying all along, that when we eliminate harmful housing conditions, we improve children's health, wellbeing, and prospects in life.  Substandard housing costs all of us in terms of the health, educational, and social costs.  But it costs the children who live in substandard housing so much more.

To view a full copy of the report, click here.


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