Is housing hardship associated with increased adolescent delinquent behaviors? [2020]

• Housing hardships are experienced by about 60% of the sample.

• Inability to pay full rent or mortgage and moving in with another household are the most common hardships.

• Ever experiencing housing hardship is associated with increased delinquent behavior.

• Persistent housing hardship is particularly pernicious for adolescent behaviors.

• Housing hardship is associated with delinquent behaviors independent of poverty.

Housing-related hardships, ranging from an inability to pay full housing costs to being evicted, are common experiences for families in the U.S. Despite the frequency of these hardships, little is known about their relationships with adolescent behaviors. The current paper uses longitudinal data on births in large U.S. cities from all six waves of the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study to explore the association between childhood experiences of housing hardships and delinquent behaviors in adolescence. About 60% of the sample experiences housing hardship at one or more waves. Inabilities to meet housing costs are common among the sample: over 40% are unable to pay their full rent or mortgage payment. Results from multivariate regression and residualized change models indicate that children who experience any housing hardship are more likely to engage in delinquent behaviors than children who do not experience hardship. Exposure to higher average levels of hardship and more waves of hardship are both associated with increased delinquency. Childhood poverty does not moderate the relationship between housing hardship and delinquency suggesting that housing hardship is associated with delinquent behaviors for poor and non-poor children alike. This research builds on existing literature highlighting the importance of examining hardship as a measure of family wellbeing. It also suggests that preventing common housing-related hardships can be beneficial for youth behavioral outcomes.

Sarah Gold
Children and Youth Services Review, Volume 116, September 2020