Methods: Data came from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS) Year 1-15, a longitudinal study of 4,898 mothers (including 3,709 unmarried mothers) who gave a birth in 20 U.S. cities between 1998 and 2000. This study’s analytic sample was restricted to 2,347 mothers who were interviewed at Year 15 and reported valid depression responses. Depression at Year 15 was examined by a dichotomous measure of one or more major depressive episodes (MDEs) in the past year based on respondents’ self-reports to the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (in consistent with the DSM-IV). Cumulative residential moves were measured by adding the numbers of moves since the date of previous survey from each follow-up interview across Years 1 to 15. Statistical analyses were conducted in three phases. First, we estimated the prevalence of cumulative residential moves during the first-15 year postnatal period. Second, we examined the proportions of respondents for each housing arrangement category including homeowners, renters, doubed-up householders from Years 1 to 15. Finally, multiple regression analyses were conducted to test the relationship between cumulative residential moves and depression at Year 15 among the unmarried mothers while controlling for major sociodemographic characteristics and parenting stress.
Results: One in every four unmarried mother at childbirth reported six or more residential moves during the 15-year postnatal period. In Year 15, only 16.6% (95% CI=13.9%-19.7%) of the unmarried mother group owned a house (vs. 59.8% [95% CI=52.5%-66.7%] among the married counterparts). For each additional residential move, our findings suggest 9.3% higher odds (AOR=1.093, 95% CI=1.035-1.153) of having a past-year MDE at Year 15. This result translates into the graduate increases in predicted probabilities from 8.5% for zero move to 17.2% for 10 moves.
Conclusions and Implications: Findings suggest that greater attention should be paid to the housing needs among mothers unmarried at childbirth. Given the potential connections between greater cumulative residential moves and persistently low homeownership during the 15-year postnatal period, temporary housing assistance as well as more fundamental programs to improve homeownership (e.g., Individual Development Accounts) need to be considered as a major preventive mental health service element for unmarried mothers with housing needs.