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J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2015 Nov;56(11):1185-93. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12386. Epub 2015 Feb 6.

Effect of housing relocation and neighborhood environment on adolescent mental and behavioral health.

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Department of Medical Social Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA.
College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA.
Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics and Department of Psychiatry, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA.
Institute for Health Research and Policy, School of Public Health and Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.



This study examined whether relocating from a high-poverty neighborhood to a lower poverty neighborhood as part of a federal housing relocation program (HOPE VI; Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere) had effects on adolescent mental and behavioral health compared to adolescents consistently living in lower poverty neighborhoods.


Sociodemographic, risk behavior, and neighborhood data were collected from 592 low-income, primarily African-American adolescents and their primary caregivers. Structured psychiatric interviews were conducted with adolescents. Prerelocation neighborhood, demographic, and risk behavior data were also included. Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) was used to test associations between neighborhood variables and risk outcomes. HLM was used to test whether the effect of neighborhood relocation and neighborhood characteristics might explain differences in sexual risk taking, substance use, and mental health outcomes.


Adolescents who relocated of HOPE VI neighborhoods (n = 158) fared worse than control group participants (n = 429) on most self-reported mental health outcomes. The addition of subjective neighborhood measures generally did not substantively change these results.


Our findings suggest that moving from a high-poverty neighborhood to a somewhat lower poverty neighborhood is not associated with better mental health and risk behavior outcomes in adolescents. The continued effects of having grown up in a high-poverty neighborhood, the small improvements in their new neighborhoods, the comparatively short length of time they lived in their new neighborhood, and/or the stress of moving appears to worsen most of the mental health outcomes of HOPE VI compared to control group participants who consistently lived in the lower poverty neighborhoods.


Adolescent; housing relocation; mental health; sexual risk-taking; substance abuse

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