The Negative Effects of Instability on Child Development: A Research Synthesis by Sandstrom, H. & Huerta, S.
2013; The Urban Institute
In this September 2013 report, the Urban Institute synthesizes its economic and social research on the impact of instability on child development, gathering evidence about family upheaval in five areas: family income, parental employment, family structure, housing and the out-of-home contexts of school and child care. In each area, the report defines as unstable a change that is abrupt, involuntary, and/or occurring in a negative direction, and it looks at each in relation to children’s development. This work is part of the Institute’s Low Income Working Families Discussion, yet it constructively spans the effects many children in all income ranges experience when instability enters and alters a family’s trajectory, even temporarily. The findings point directly toward the importance of high-quality learning experiences at home and at school in the early years, parental mental health, and stability at home. Additionally, it advances theories about social practices that alleviate the impact of instability. The paper’s interdisciplinary approach presents evidence and context from developmental psychology, sociology, economics, public policy and family studies. By departing from boundaries in single domain research, it meets us at the critical intersections among schools, families, communities, workplaces and any who seek to support children in times of instability.