Becoming a parent and keeping a home: meaning making and resilience among young parents with experiences of housing instability and homelessness

Stream: Young parents, lone parents and social policy
Date: Monday, 9 September 2019
Time: 3.40 pm – 5.00 pm


Families comprise a substantial proportion of the homeless population in Australia. While structural risk factors such as poverty are strongly associated with homelessness, not all families experiencing material hardship become homeless. The MAC-K Family Homelessness Project sought to understand how families were able to resist and/or recover from homelessness despite ongoing uncertainty with their economic and social circumstances. This paper focuses on the experiences of the young mothers in the sample, as they navigated the aftermath of their childhoods and created their own stories of family and resilience.

What is the meaning of family and resilience for young parents considered ‘at risk’ of homelessness? How do young parents compare to older parents on indicators of resilience?

This is a pilot study utilising a sequential mixed methods design. First, narrative interviews were conducted with 6 young mothers and 7 older parents that explored meaning making around family and resilience. Second, a cross-sectional survey measuring resilience and its correlates (family strength, perceived social support, social problem solving skills) was undertaken with 43 parents, one-third of whom were aged 25 years or less.

There was no difference between younger and older parents in terms of resilience measures or its correlates suggesting younger parents had similar strengths and resources as those of the older parents. Young mothers identified independent housing as critical to developing a family identity and parenting skills and described parenthood as a defining factor in their wellbeing. This has implications for policies that better support the independence of young parents.


Elizabeth Conroy (Presenter), Western Sydney University
Elizabeth Conroy is a Senior Research Fellow with expertise in cross-sectional and longitudinal survey methodology, mixed methods research, and program evaluation. Elizabeth's research addresses the health inequities experienced by marginalised populations (such as the homeless) with a particular interest in the comorbidity of substance use and other mental disorder, life-course approaches to understanding trauma and resilience, and service integration and accessibility for people with high and complex needs. Elizabeth is also a registered Psychologist.

Brianna Perrens (Presenter), Mission Australia
Brianna Perrens is the Research & Evaluation Manager at Mission Australia. She has a Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Social Science degree from UNSW and a Master of Policy and Applied Social Research Degree from Macquarie University. While specialising in social research, Brianna has also worked in research roles within the media and market research industries. Brianna has been a member of Mission Australia’s research team since 2012. She has a particular interest in understanding service impact and client outcomes and has been closely involved in Mission Australia’s impact measurement work and service evaluations.

Julie Jasprizza-Laus (Presenter), Mission Australia
Julie Jasprizza-Laus has a passion for supporting communities to thrive and believes that if a community is strong, supportive and provides opportunities, then families can focus on supporting their children to dream big and to foster the belief they can do anything they dream. In 2006 Julz became the first Child Friendly Officer for Mission Australia’s Communities for Children Program in Mt Druitt. Julz career progressed from there and she is now Mission Australia’s Area Manager in Western Sydney, leading a vibrant team of 60 who each support families and communities across all of Western Sydney.