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J Fam Issues. 2011 Mar;32(3):369-393.

Housing Dependence and Intimate Relationships in the Lives of Low-Income Puerto Rican Mothers.

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  • 1American Ethnic Studies/Women's & Gender Studies, Wake Forest University, P.O. Box7549, Winston-Salem, NC 27109, office: 336.758.3556, fax: 336.758.4127, cell: 919.599.6010.


Using longitudinal ethnographic data from the Three-City Study, we examined the relationship between sixteen low-income Puerto Rican mothers' housing dependencies and their intimate partner relations. We traced mothers' dependent housing arrangements and entrée to marital or cohabiting relationships from their teens through their procurement of independent housing while entering and maintaining intimate partner unions as adults. Findings indicated that various trigger factors led women out of their natal homes and into expedited cohabitation with romantic partners which frequently resulted in unstable unions in which mothers had little power and autonomy. As mothers became eligible for housing subsidies they obtained housing independent from their male partners, potentially increasing the propensity for greater relationship power. Housing independence, however, was not without problems. Spillover effects, such as shadowing partners, threatened housing stability and mothers' independence. The relevance of these findings for future research is discussed.

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