Substandard housing impact children's development

Posted on October 26, 2013

“We know that environmental stress can come not just from outside the home, but from the home itself when we consider the impact of living day-to-day with exposed wiring, peeling paint, rodents, poor sanitation and a lack of natural light"

Sifting through a massive study of low-income children and their families, Lynch School of Education Professor Rebekah Levine Coley and colleagues have gleaned new insights into the harmful effects of substandard housing on families and children.

Coley, whose research into the housing choices of low-income families is supported by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation, says her new report shows the distinct emotional and educational prices children pay when their families live in run-down apartments and homes.

Data culled from the six-year Three City Study of 2,400 children, teens and young adults found emotional and behavioral symptoms such as anxiety, depression, lying and aggressive behavior are closely connected to poor housing quality and the related stress placed on parents, children and families, according to the report in the current edition of the journal Developmental Psychology.

“There’s a tremendous amount of attention paid to affordability and that’s a critical issue for low-income families,” said Coley. “What our findings suggest is that housing quality may be more important when we are concerned with the growth and development of children. The data suggest policymakers make housing quality a priority as they work to resolve the housing crisis facing low-income families.”

“Through no fault of their own, children and teens whose families live in substandard housing are paying a steep price in terms of their emotional and behavioral well-being,” said Coley, who teaches in the Lynch School Counseling, Developmental and Educational Psychology Department. “That carries on into school and creates deficits that are extremely difficult to overcome.”

The effect was not only felt by children: For parents, the strain of living in substandard housing produced symptoms of anxiety and depression, said Coley. Researchers found a strong link between the stress poor housing quality placed on parents and the problems experienced by children, according to the report.

“A big takeaway is that many of these links function in part through parenting and parental stress,” said Coley, whose research examines the intersection of families, neighborhoods and public policy. “We know that environmental stress can come not just from outside the home, but from the home itself when we consider the impact of living day-to-day with exposed wiring, peeling paint, rodents, poor sanitation and a lack of natural light, or with frequent moves from home to home.”


Category(s):Child and/or Adolescent Issues, Child Development

Source material from Boston College


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