Physical and Psychological Aggression Toward a Child Among Homeless, Doubled-Up, and Other Low-Income Families

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Journal Article

This study examines the extent of adverse parenting behaviors among low-income families with children and determines whether housing instability, measured by homelessness and doubling up with relatives or friends due to economic hardship, increases the likelihood of physical and psychological aggression toward a child, after considering the contribution of other relevant characteristics. Using data from 3 waves of the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study, this study followed 2,332 low-income children in 20 large U.S. cities. Multivariate analyses involved logistic regression with generalized estimating equations. Adverse parenting behaviors were common among all low-income families regardless of whether they experienced housing instability. Nonetheless, mothers with a homeless or doubled-up episode reported higher rates of physically and psychologically aggressive behaviors toward a child compared with mothers in the housed group. Having a homeless episode was significantly associated with a greater likelihood of reporting a high level of physical aggression toward a child. Children's behavioral issues, maternal depression, and parental stress also contributed to adverse parenting behaviors. Findings suggest that housing instability can be a marker of adverse parenting behaviors and service professionals need to respond to parenting needs as well as housing needs for families in unstable housing. Areas of future research are discussed.

Journal of Social Service Research