Investigating the Support Networks for Mothers of a High-density Public Housing Community and the Effects of Housing Closures on These Support Systems

Jennifer Smith*, Soyang Kwon, Maryann Mason, Karen Sheehan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the past few decades, public housing initiatives have focused on the decentralization of poverty by replacing high-density public housing (HDPH) models with lower-density, mixed-income models. This action has resulted in the displacement of families who had lived in these developments for generations. In past studies, public housing residents have been shown to have stronger social ties than those living in other types of assisted housing. Research on the dismemberment of US public housing has demonstrated a “root shock” or disruption in the support infrastructure in these resource-limited communities. The purpose of this study was to use intergenerational analysis to analyze support systems of mothers in a low-income community and to investigate how the dismemberment of a Chicago HDPH community, Cabrini Green, affected parenting experiences and support infrastructure. Two generations of the former HDPH community were interviewed: (Gen1) mothers who raised their children in Cabrini Green and (Gen2) their daughter(s) who were raised in Cabrini Green but who now raise their children elsewhere. Interviews were analyzed for common themes in relation to mental health, social support networks, and parenting experiences. Four main components of parenting support were identified: familial support, father of child support, community support, and institutional support. Interviews suggest that the closing of Cabrini-Green high-rise buildings impacted relative contributions from specific components of mothers’ support infrastructure, particularly community and institutional support. Mothers with support void in one component of support had better outcomes if they had the reserve to compensate by increasing one or more other areas of support. Programs that foster other sources of parenting support during and after public housing closures may help to improve outcomes for mothers and their families. By analyzing the experiences of mothers of both generations, we also gain insight into how experiences of motherhood and support systems compared before and after Cabrini Green’s dissolution as well as insight into the participants’ views on the impact of the housing closing on the parenting experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-408
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Urban Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Cabrini Green
  • Chicago
  • High-density public housing
  • Motherhood
  • Parenting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Urban Studies
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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