Why Did a Randomized Program of Housing Mobility Cause Changes in the Mental Health of Adolescents? The Mediating Role of Substance Use, Social Networks, and Family Mental Health in the Moving to Opportunity Study

Nicole Schmidt, University of Minnesota
Theresa L. Osypuk, University of Minnesota

This study uses the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) housing voucher experiment to test mediation of MTO effects on youth mental health (n=2829). MTO had a harmful main effect for boys’ behavior problems and psychological distress, and a beneficial main effect for girls’ psychological distress. Using Inverse Odds Ratio Weighting mediation we tested youth substance use comorbidity, social networks, and family mental health as potential mediators of the MTO-mental health relationship. Gender-stratified models identified comorbid substance use as a significant mediating domain for boys’ behavior problems, indicating that the same boys who exhibit increased behavior problems also exhibit increased substance use. Social networks did not significantly mediate effects on boys’ behavior problems or psychological distress, although the results suggest this is a promising avenue for further exploration. Family mental health did not mediate effects on boys’ mental health. No proposed mediators significantly accounted for MTO effects on girls’ psychological distress.

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Presented in Session 29: Adolescent Risk Behaviors and Health