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Keywords:

  • adaptation;
  • coping;
  • goal achievement;
  • homeless mothers;
  • mental health

Abstract

This study examined the relationship between coping, mental health and goal achievement among homeless mothers. Seventy-two women took part and 44 were re-interviewed 4 months later. The Family Crisis Oriented Personal Evaluation Scales (F-COPES) were used to identify their coping strategies at the time of homelessness; the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) measured mental health problems; and a semi-structured questionnaire identified their goals. Outcome measures at follow-up were goal achievement and mental health. A variety of coping strategies were used, with some differences ascertained according to reason for homelessness and age of respondent. Lower use of problem-focussed coping was associated with poorer mental health at the time of homelessness. Mental health problems improved over time, but levels of psychopathology remained high at follow-up. Most women had achieved their primary goal of resettlement, and this was associated with use of problem-focussed coping. Lower use of problem-focussed coping, in particular, acquiring social support, was associated with continuation of mental health problems at follow-up, however the greatest predictor of mental health at follow-up was mental health status whilst homeless. Despite exposure to major stressors and poor mental health, mothers experiencing homelessness can maintain their ability to cope effectively, in order to achieve their goals. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.