Study centers on foreclosure' stress on family life

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The stress of a foreclosure can disrupt marriages and produce behavioral changes in children, according to a study being released this week.

The study is based on interviews with 25 Latino families by the National Council of La Raza and the Center for Community Capital at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"People losing their homes is more than losing a physical space, bricks and mortar," said Janis Bowdler, deputy director of Wealth-Building Policy Project at the National Council of La Raza. "We have been so focused on the short-term impact of the financial crisis, the policy solutions, the physical loss of the house, that we don't always consider the larger picture."

The families, who were from Texas, Michigan, Florida, Georgia and California, said that after the foreclosure, they incurred significant financial losses, on average about $89,000.

Of the parents interviewed, about half reported problems in their relationship, and more than a third were considering divorce or separation. Thirteen families reported that after they lost their home, their children had academic or minor behavior problems in school. Many parents reported more conflicts with their children.

"Parents often perceived their children being withdrawn and having trouble making new friends," the study said.

The study is the latest to link foreclosure and mental health issues, and Bowdler said she hoped it would spur more research. Last year, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that 47 percent of the homeowners going through foreclosure showed symptoms of depression, with 37 percent exhibiting signs of major depression.

Moody's has forecast that more than 1.9 million homeowners will lose their homes to foreclosure this year.

-- Renae Merle

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