The influence of unstable housing on children’s wellbeing and development

M Taylor and B Edwards, Australian Institute of Family Studies, July 2012

This research project was funded by the Australian Government under the 2009-13 National Homelessness Research Agenda.

Little evidence has been produced on the influence of housing on children’s development in Australia. This study, relying on LSAC 2004 and 2008 data, begins to fill this gap by examining the association between residential mobility, unstable housing tenure and housing stress on children’s cognitive development and social-emotional functioning.

Previous research indicates that parental relationship breakdown often leads to unstable housing; therefore, this study has a separate focus on the experiences of children living in separated or coupled families.

Section 2 of the report presents a review of the Australian and international literature on the association between residential mobility, housing stress and housing tenure on child outcomes. Section 3 provides an overview of some definitions relevant to housing and homelessness in Australia and the data used in this report. Section 4 provides a description of these aspects of the housing circumstances of Australian children. Section 5 focuses on the housing circumstances of children living in families where their parents have separated and where their parents are still coupled. Section 6 examines the relationships between child outcomes and housing characteristics for 4–5 and 8–9 year old children in separated and couple families, while controlling for other socio-economic characteristics of children’s families. The final section discusses these findings and their implications.

Below are links to the Full Report and an Evidence Note that provides a summary of the report findings.

Final Report [PDF –  1050 KB] [DOCX – 1052 KB]
Evidence Note [PDF –  54 KB] [DOCX –  141 KB]