Finding Home: A Qualitative Approach to Understanding Adolescent Mothers’ Housing Instability

Margaret C. Elliott, Elizabeth A. Shuey, Natalya Zaika, Lauren Mims, Tama Leventhal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many low-income Latina adolescent mothers face instability in their housing circumstances, which has implications for their long-term prospects and that of their children. This study used longitudinal, ethnographic data from Welfare, Children, and Families: A Three-City Study to explore experiences of low-income, Latina adolescent mothers (N = 15) with unstable housing who primarily rely on their families or the families of their significant others for housing support. Results of analysis employing grounded theory and narrative approaches suggested two types of instability: “Horizontal moves” between family homes and “vertical moves” between family homes and independent living. Although family support often was fundamental in allowing for participants’ pursuit of independent housing (i.e., vertical moves), it also was associated with greater residential mobility (i.e., horizontal moves), most often in the context of intrafamilial conflict and family instability. These results are discussed with respect to inconsistencies in policies to address this vulnerable population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-65
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican journal of community psychology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 2017


  • Adolescent parenting
  • Housing
  • Latinas
  • Residential mobility
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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