Morrissey was born on 22 May 1959 at Park Hospital in Davyhulme, Lancashire, England, to Irish Catholic parents who had emigrated to Manchester from County Kildare with his only sibling, elder sister Jackie, a year prior to his birth. His father, Peter, was a hospital porter and his mother, Elizabeth (née Dwyer), was an assistant librarian. Morrissey was raised in inner-city Manchester. His family first lived at Harper Street in Hulme before moving to nearby Queen's Square in 1965. In 1969, when many of the old streets and tenements were facing demolition, Morrissey's parents moved to a three-bedroomed house on King's Road in the suburb of Stretford.
As a child, Morrissey developed interests and role models, including female singers and pop stars such as Sandie Shaw and Marianne Faithfull, as well as Billy Fury. He was interested in "kitchen sink" television drama, Coronation Street's Elsie Tanner, actor James Dean and authors Oscar Wilde and Shelagh Delaney. The Moors Murders horrified the city when the matter came to light in 1965, and this collective trauma is said to have made a profound and lasting impression on Morrissey; the murders were referenced in the Smiths song "Suffer Little Children".
Morrissey has said his athletic ability saved him to a large degree from bullying during adolescence. Still, he has described this period as a time when he was often lonely and depressed. As a teenager, he began taking prescription drugs to help combat the depression that would later follow him throughout his life.