Characteristics and Dynamics of Homeless Families with Children. Conclusion


In summary, the literature on homeless children conducted over the past 18 years has focused on trying to understand if, how, and to what extent homelessness has an impact on children. Studies involving both homeless and low-income housed children have consistently found evidence for a poverty-related impact on children; that is finding that both groups have more problems on measures compared to children from nonpoverty backgrounds. Discerning an additional, homelessness-specific, impact in different realms of child functioning has been more difficult; although, not surprisingly, the preponderance of the evidence does suggest that homelessness is detrimental to the well-being of children across various realms of functioning. Yet, enough studies having the methodological capability of finding effects of homelessness (above and beyond poverty) on children have not done so, making it seem that a range of potential effect modifiers and contextual variables are operating, such that homelessness-specific effects are sometimes, but not always, detected by researchers. Additional areas in which further research is needed include trying to better understand parent-child separations that can occur because of a homeless episode and the effects this has on family members. Also, very little attention has been given to understanding whether there are distinct subgroups of homeless children based on different constellations of problems or needs.

As studies have indicated, homeless families are not a static and isolated group. Homeless families emerge from a broader population of low-income families living in housing and eventually return to this larger group. Because homelessness is but one of many stressors that children living in poverty must encounter, it is wise to always be mindful of the broader context of poverty in terms of understanding the needs and issues of homeless children. Many of their problems and needs will be quite similar to housed children who are living in poverty. That said, it is also vitally important to appreciate the specific problems that children encounter when homeless and attempt to rectify them.

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