Housing instability and depression among us mothers following a nonmarital birth

Sehun Oh, Ian Zapcic, Michael G. Vaughn, Christopher P. Salas-Wright, Yeonwoo Kim

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Mothers who had a nonmarital birth experience multiple risk factors for depression, including housing instability. Yet, important questions remain about the extent of long-term housing instability and its association with future depression among at-risk mothers. Using the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study data, we examine cumulative housing instability over a 15-year period following nonmarital birth and its association with maternal depression. Based on a sample of 2279 mothers who had a nonmarital birth in 20 major US cities between 1998–2000, we examined their 15-year residential moves and housing arrangements. Then, we tested the associations between the cumulative residential moves and major depressive episodes (MDE) in Year 15 using logistic regression analysis. One in every four mothers had six or more residential moves in 15 years following a nonmarital birth. For each additional move, mothers reported up to 27.9% higher odds of having a past-year MDE in Year 15, translating into the prevalence increases from 6.0% (zero move) to 20.6% (10 moves). Our findings suggest that greater attention should be paid to housing needs among mothers following a nonmarital birth, including temporary housing assistance and more fundamental programs to reduce housing instability as preventive mental health services.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10322
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Oct 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health, grant number R25HD074544 and 5R01HD036916. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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