The impact of homelessness on children

The impact of homelessness on children,10.1037//0003-066X.46.11.1170,American Psychologist,Yvonne Rafferty,Marybeth Shinn

The impact of homelessness on children   (Citations: 93)
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This article reviews and critiques community-based re- search on the effects of homelessness on children. Home- less children confront serious threats to their ability to succeed and their future well-being. Of particular concern are health problems, hunger, poor nutrition, developmental delays, anxiety, depression, behavioral problems, and ed- ucational underachievement. Factors that may mediate the observed outcomes include inadequate shelter condi- tions, instability in residences and shelters, inadequate services, and barriers to accessing services that are avail- able. Public policy initiatives are needed to meet the needs of homeless children. Research on the impact of homelessness on children in- dicates that homeless children (generally identified as those in emergency shelter facilities with their families) confront serious threats to their well-being. Of particular concern are health problems, hunger and poor nutrition, developmental delays, psychological problems, and edu- cational underachievement. This article examines the problems faced by homeless children in each of these areas. Where possible, we describe the extent to which homeless children are at a disadvantage, relative not only to the population at large but to other poor children. That is, we attempt to understand to what extent problems are associated with homelessness per se and to what extent they are linked with extreme poverty. A second task of this article is to understand how homelessness leads to the outcomes we document and to identify which conditions in the lives of homeless children lead to particular adverse effects. As Molnar and Rubin (1991) pointed out, homelessness is a composite of many conditions and events, such as poverty, changes in resi- dence, schools, and services, loss of possessions, disrup- tions in social networks, and exposure to extreme hard- ship. Effects ofhomelessness on children may be mediated by any of these ecological conditions and by their effects on parents and the family system. Research on homeless children, however, has not generally examined mediating mechanisms. We focus on mechanisms that can be influ- enced by social policy, namely, inadequate shelter con- ditions, instability of shelters and residences, lack of ad- equate services, and barriers to accessing available ser- vices. A final section describes linkages among outcomes and discusses implications for public policy. Health Problems
Journal: American Psychologist - AMER PSYCHOL , vol. 46, no. 11, pp. 1170-1179, 1991
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