Unseen Disruptions: Childhood Eviction and Developmental Impact

May 3, 2024 | by Taylor Sheridan

When exploring the complex dynamics of childhood, there’s an often overlooked, yet crucial aspect: childhood eviction. It’s a disruption that affects a child’s life, impacting not just their immediate circumstances but also their long-term development.

While any sort of housing instability can be harmful to a child’s development, evictions can be particularly detrimental. Evictions can cause a cluster of other effects including sudden financial strain, difficulty finding affordable housing due to the stigma of household eviction record, disrupted social networks, and increased stress and alienation for parents.

A study done by Schwartz, Leifheit, Chen, Arcaya and Berkman examined how evictions at different stages of childhood effected a child’s cognition in assessments that measured executive function, mathematical reasoning, written language skills, and vocabulary skills.

To compare the effects of eviction at different ages on childhood development the authors created groups of children whose families’ experienced evictions when they were in infancy (12 months to age 1), early childhood (3 to 5 years old) and middle childhood (age 9), and then tested the children in each group at age 9 in the cognitive assessments. They then compared the results of each group with children who did not experience an eviction. 

They found that an eviction’s effect on cognitive development depended on when in childhood the eviction took place. 

  • Children who experienced an eviction during middle childhood had significantly lower scores across all four assessments compared to children who did not experience an eviction. This difference in assessment scores is equivalent to as much as a full year of schooling. 
  • Children who experienced an eviction during infancy had lower scores in three out of the four assessments. The differences in scores were large, but the lower scores were not statistically significantly different than the scores of those who did not experience an eviction. 
  • The differences in scores for children who experienced eviction during early childhood and those who had not experienced an eviction were minimal and not statistically significant. 

They found that eviction in middle childhood and infancy “is a powerful predictor of future cognitive skill impairment.” Schools should therefore work to provide additional support to students who experience housing instability to make sure their developmental needs are met.

However, based on a separate study done by Matthew Kraft, they also propose that preventing evictions may be a less expensive and more cost effective intervention to improve student outcomes. 

Resources to Help Avoid Eviction

While the Texas Rent Relief Program and the Texas Eviction Diversion Program closed in the summer 2023, there are still resources available. 

On the House blog posts are meant to provide general information on various housing-related issues, research and programs. We are not liable for any errors or inaccuracies in the information provided by blog sources. Furthermore, this blog is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed professional attorney.

Leave a Comment