Mothers' Perceptions of How Homelessness and Housing Interventions Affect Their Children's Behavioral and Educational Functioning

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American Journal of Orthopsychiatry

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Children who experience homelessness display substantial variation in outcomes, but little attention has been given to potential mechanisms linking their housing experiences to their functioning. This study explores these mechanisms using qualitative coding of 80 interviews with parents participating in a randomized control trial of housing interventions for families experiencing homelessness. Interviews were conducted an average of 7 months after families entered a homeless shelter, when most families had exited shelters to a variety of other housing options. Many parents described children as faring poorly on behavioral and educational outcomes while in shelters but displaying improvement after leaving the shelter. Parents commonly viewed shelters as contributing to behavioral disruptions, with restored autonomy and routines after exiting shelters contributing to recovery in functioning. Parents offered long-term rental subsidies viewed having a stable, adequate place of their own as helping their children fare better from reduced family stress, improved routines, and changes in children’s expectations about stability. Findings indicate the importance of understanding differences in housing stability and quality among families who experience homelessness for how children fare—including differences in how housing interventions affect stability and quality. Policies expanding access to long-term rental subsidies could help improve outcomes for children. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved)


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