Characteristics and Dynamics of Homeless Families with Children. Optimal Taxonomic Standards of a Good Typology


Based on the experience of typological research in psychiatry and substance abuse (Babor and Dolinsky, 1988), a set of taxonomic standards can be suggested as the characteristics of a good typology.  Optimally, a typology of homeless families should:

  • Be simple in its structure;
  • Have practical utility (e.g., mediate judgments about clinical evidence);
  • Allow matching to clinical and preventive services;
  • Be easy to derive from available data;
  • Permit inferences to underlying causes;
  • Predict future behavior;
  • Facilitate communication;
  • Demonstrate empirical validity and reliability; and
  • Identify subtypes that are homogeneous within categories, remain stable over time, and are comprehensive in their coverage of the homeless population.

A typology of homeless families with children is relevant to at least three public health issues: (1) how to  help such families gain stable housing; (2) how to help them with personal problems, including but not limited to those affecting housing; and (3) how to protect homeless children in situations  that may interfere with  their healthy development. The same typology may not be optimal for these three challenges. Therefore, it is possible that more than one typology of homeless families may be indicated.

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