, Volume 88, Issue 1, pp 142-153
Date: 13 Jan 2011

Household Disrepair and the Mental Health of Low-Income Urban Women

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We employ longitudinal survey data from the Welfare, Children, and Families project (1999, 2001) to examine the effects of household disrepair (e.g., living with leaky structures, busted plumbing, broken windows, and pests) on psychological distress among low-income urban women with children. Building on previous research, we adjust for related housing concepts, neighborhood disorder, financial hardship, and a host of relevant background factors. We also formally test the mediating influences of social support and self-esteem. Our cross-sectional analysis indicated that household disrepair is positively associated with recent symptoms of psychological distress. Our longitudinal change score analysis demonstrates two important patterns. First, women living with household disrepair at baseline are not necessarily vulnerable to increases in symptoms of psychological distress over the 2-year study period. Second, women who report an increase in disrepair over the study period are also likely to report a concurrent increase in symptoms of distress. Although social support and self-esteem favor mental health in our cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses, these psychosocial resources fail to mediate or explain the association between disrepair and distress.