Ariane Prohaska and Bronwen Lichtenstein


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Losing a Home to Mortgage Foreclosure: Temporary Setback or Chronic Stressor?

The foreclosure crisis has been a stressful, life-changing event for millions of people. In this article, we use Pearlin’s (1989) theory of social stress to examine the levels, causes, and duration of foreclosure-related stress on 180 Alabama homeowners who either defaulted on a mortgage or lost a home to foreclosure. We performed statistical tests for both groups on stress levels before and after the event, which were then matched with respondents’ characteristics, including current income and housing status. Our analysis produced four significant findings: (1) Both groups had experienced job loss, illness, divorce, or mortgage hikes prior to default or foreclosure, (2) Stress levels were equally high for both groups before and after the event, (3) Stress levels did not vary significantly by race/ethnicity, gender, or marital and employment status, and 4) Financial problems often continued after the borrower had either paid arrears or their home was repossessed. The results support Pearlin’s theory of chronic social stress, in which an acute crisis such as foreclosure is a marker of cumulative and more durable strains over the life course.

chronic stress, financial strains, home foreclosure

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 40, No. 3 (2013): 65-80


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