Single Mothers' Experiences of Temporary Accommodation and Mental Health: a London-Based Study
Numbers of families experiencing homelessness and living in temporary accommodation in London are rising each year (House of Commons, 2019), with families headed by single mothers being extremely overrepresented (Shelter 2018c). This appears to be linked with a wider political backdrop of gentrification (Lees, 2008; Watt, 2017) and austerity measures (Rugg, 2016). Existing research reports homelessness is linked to reduced wellbeing in mothers (Bassuk & Beardslee, 2014; Park et al., 2012; Roze et al., 2018), and children (Holtrop, Mcneil, & Mcwey, 2015; Thomas & So, 2016), and increased strain on mother-child relationships (Anthony, Vincent, & Shin, 2018). Despite this, there is no current in-depth research looking at the experiences of mothers and children in temporary accommodation in the UK using a clinical psychology lens. A qualitative design was employed where semi-structured interviews were completed with 12 single mothers living in temporary accommodation in London. Data was analysed using a reflexive method of Thematic Analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006), within a critical realist social constructionist epistemology (Harper, 2011). Four main themes were constructed: ‘Experiencing neglect and abuse within a powerful, unjust system’, ‘Feeling trapped in cycles of suffering’, ‘Mothering against the odds: nurturing through harsh conditions’ and ‘Surviving and resisting in the face of adversity’. The results of this study suggested living in temporary accommodation was linked to potentially overwhelming distress for mothers and children. Despite this, love and care were present within mother-child relationships, and mothers strove to fight back in the face of adversity. Clinical implications are outlined in relation to existing research, models and clinical approaches. Implications suggest interventions taking place across individual, service, community and political levels are needed.
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