LAS VEGAS (KLAS)–Not having a safe, affordable place to live can play a key role in the maltreatment of a child.

A UNLV professor examined the link between housing affordability and childhood abuse, while cautioning against the assumption that low-income individuals are more likely to abuse children. Rather, she implores policymakers to consider how various socioeconomic factors could contribute to the maltreatment of children.

Affordable housing is a necessity nationwide, however, studies show Las Vegas is ranked among the most “severe” metro areas when it comes to the affordable housing shortage.

“It’s really hard to thrive and parent appropriately when you don’t have a safe place to sleep,” said Katherine Marcal, assistant professor at the UNLV school of social work.”

Marcal researched the issue of affordable housing using data collected and reviewed by Princeton University, which recruited mothers in hospitals shortly after giving birth in 20 large American cities. Throughout the course of the study, five follow-up interviews occurred over 15 years.

“Really, what we are talking about is a lack of rental units,” said Marcal, “or homes that are going at rates that low-income to middle-income families can comfortably afford.”

In her study called “Domains of Housing Insecurity: Associations With Child Maltreatment Risk,” Marcal digs into what the problem looks like well below the surface

The study revealed a correlation between housing insecurity and a child’s risk for physical and psychological abuse.

“They do not have enough money coming in to keep up with their basic needs,” she said. “That means they are only left with bad options, and when you are only left with bad options you are going to make a bad choice.”

Some solutions offered by Marcal include:

  • Having cities zoned for affordable homes.
  • Ensuring evictions do not stay on an individual’s record for a long time so they can get approved for a lease.
  • Advocating for caps to rent increases.
  • Working with landlords in tandem to produce fair policies so that renters can afford their homes and landlords can afford to pay for the mortgages. 

She emphasized that the study’s results shouldn’t assume low-income people are more likely to abuse their children, but rather how various socioeconomic factors can contribute to the maltreatment of a child.