Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing



First Advisor

Mary Sullivan


Residential mobility has been associated with a host of negative outcomes for children. For low-income families, the context of the move is often unrelated to significant gains; instead, mobility is driven by negative external forces. The term “residential instability” has been used to describe this type of mobility pattern, yet the concept is vague and poorly defined in extant literature. Three separate studies were conducted. Study 1 was a systematic review using The Guidelines for Meta-Analyses and Systematic Reviews of Observational Studies. Study 2 used the Wilsonian method to develop a definition of residential instability. Study 3 was an empirical study to examine the effect of residential mobility and housing instability on delinquent behaviors among at-risk sample of adolescents with prenatal exposure to cocaine and/or opiates who participated in the longitudinal Maternal Lifestyle Study (MLS). The systematic review of 23 studies supported the research aim of Study 3. The Wilsonian analysis resulted in a definition of residential instability. Secondary analysis of 736 adolescents in the MLS demonstrated an association between residential mobility and housing instability and delinquent behaviors among adolescents across the sample, including crimes against people, vandalism, and school delinquency. Together, these three studies present a synthesis of the science, clarification of concepts, and demonstrate that housing problems are a compelling risk factor for delinquent behaviors among youth. Findings from these studies highlight the critical contextual influences that vulnerable families routinely encounter. These findings inform clinical practice and emphasize the role of housing as an important determinant for adolescent wellbeing.



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