Homeless children in the United States Essay

There are several conditions that render children homeless. The work of Bassuk et al. (2005) explained some of the roots of homelessness and stressed that it comes from “…the combined effects of extreme poverty, lack of affordable housing, decreasing government supports, the challenge of raising children alone, domestic violence, and fractured social supports” (p. 1). Homeless families are “one of the fastest growing groups of the homeless population,” in other words, homeless families enhanced by singles is drastically reducing to lower levels (National Coalition for the Homeless, 1995 as cited in Markos & Lima, 2003, p. 118). Some figures approximate that more than 1 million youths are homeless on any given night, and more than 750,000 are of school age. This means that the youth are among the increasing homeless families Collignon & Nunez, 1997 as cited in Markos & Lima, 2003, p. 118).
The number of homeless children in the United States America is significant. It is a concern that has caught the attention of policy professionals, government officials and providers of social services. In the 1980s, between 200,000 and 500,000 Americans were homeless because of increased social service cuts in housing and deterioration of economy. The past decades has seen an increase in data collection and keeping on homelessness. This has been possible through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD in short. In addition, various nongovernmental organizations have been working with the homeless populations. HUD has produced an annual report on the homelessness situation in the United States. According to a report by the National Center on Family Homelessness, “at least 1.35 million children are homeless during a year’s time…” in America. On any given day of the week, there are a total of 200,000 homeless children and 800,000 homeless adults (Burt, 2001; Burt et al., 1999; National Coalition for the Homeless, 2002; U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2002 as cited in National Center on Family Homelessness, 1999). Burt et al. (2001) discovered that 52 of the children who were homeless and lived in “urban family shelters were five years old or younger; 36 were between six and 12; and 12 were between 13 and 16” (as cited in Markos & Lima, 2003, p. 118).

The quality of experiences at school environments can encourage the development of speech and social skills, and this is something that is certainly critical to evaluate in children that suffer from homelessness. Lack of stability at home during early childhood development because of a homeless situation can certainly disrupt childhood development, and this appears to be a common theme when reviewing the literature regarding homeless children. The articles analyzed suggest the importance of stability when children are learning language, social, and academic skills in elementary skill. However, the articles do not take into account why some children still succeed academically and developmentally in homeless situations, and whether or not gender might have something to do with this. It is generally agreed amongst the researchers studied here that young girls demonstrate stronger social and language development skills at an earlier age, but whether or not this is a factor of success for a homeless child has yet to be determined.

Purpose of Study

When homelessness was studied in connection with children’s academic achievement, some studies found dismal results. Rafferty, Shinn, and Weitzman (2004) compared and contrasted the school experiences and academic achievement of 46 homeless adolescents and 87 permanently housed adolescents whose families accessed public assistance. Findings showed that both groups of students consistently scored below the national average for reading and mathematics achievement. Furthermore, homelessness was correlated with negative short-term changes in academic scores (Rafferty et al., 2004, p. 190). The United States Department of Education has determined that constant school mobility is connected to poor school success for homeless children. Homelessness, because of school mobility and the often accompanying stress of losing belongings, community, and friends, tends to have a deleterious impact on the health, mental health, and educational outcomes of homeless children (Rafferty et al., 2004, p. 180).

A number of scholars, nevertheless, are optimistic that because of the protective factors of parenting style and supportive housing services, not all homeless children fare poorly in school. Herbers et al. (2011) examined the direct and indirect outcomes of parenting on the academic functioning of 58 young homeless children. They discovered that quality parenting can improve the academic achievement of these children compared to low-quality parenting, despite the existence of similar high-risk factors. Hong and Piescher (2012) studied the effects of family supportive housing services on 183 children’s well-being and academic functioning. They learned that supportive housing services were related to children’s school mobility, school attendance, and math achievement. Further examination of the existing research identified a gap in the exploration of the factors that impact the academic success of homeless children, which will guide this paper’s research question and objectives (Hong & Piescher, 2012, p.98; Rafferty et al., 2004, p.195). This study seeks to determine whether parenting quality, school quality, and supportive housing can improve homeless children’s academic success. Furthermore, the research will take into account whether or not a gender gap exists within homeless children achieving academic success. Their combined effects are not studied, however, and instead, their independent connections to academic achievement will be assessed through experts in evaluating parenting quality and the assessments of recruited teachers. The target sample is composed of pre-school children aged 4 to 6 years old.

Research Questions

In a qualitative research design, researchers state research questions rather than objectives or hypotheses. The typical structure of qualitative research questions includes a central question and associated sub-questions (Creswell, 2012). The central question is a broad question that seeks to investigate the phenomenon. Sub-questions then follow the general question and narrow the focus of the study. These sub-questions can be questions that are used during interviews. The first central question is as follows: Does parenting quality have a protective effect on the academic achievement of homeless children? Sub-questions guide the parenting quality rating system that will be conducted by two raters, a psychologist on parental quality and a counselor on parent–child family relationships:

Do parents act toward their children with warmth and closeness, including the use of positive tone?

Do parents instill discipline in study habits and related academic activities, and if so, how?

How do parents express their expectations regarding their children’s academic achievement, if these expressions are made at all?

What is the child’s IQ?

What is the caregiver’s IQ and educational attainment?

The second central question pertains to the relationship between supportive housing and academic achievement: Does the receipt of supportive housing services affect children’s academic achievement? Sub-questions would include the following:

How long did the family stay in supportive housing services?
What is the academic achievement of children before and during the receipt of supportive housing services?

Children with previous schooling experiences and grades will be used so that results can be compared by the recruited teachers.
Before formulating a quantitative research question, objectives must be first stated; these objectives will constitute the goals of the study (Creswell, 2012). These are two possible quantitative research objectives for the study of homeless children and their academic success:

First research question: Does parenting quality have a protective effect on the academic achievement of homeless children?
First research objective: The goal of this study is to investigate the protective effect of parenting quality on the academic achievement of homeless children.

First null hypothesis: Parenting quality has no effect on the academic achievement of homeless children.

Second research question: Does the receipt of supportive housing services affect children’s academic achievement?

Second research objective: This study also aims to understand whether supportive housing services affect children’s academic achievement.

Second null hypothesis: Receipt of supportive housing services has no effect on children’s academic achievement.

Brief Review of Literature

Homeless children are a particular social concern specifically because they are children, and homelessness can have distinct negative effects on their emotional, physical, and mental health.

Homeless children tend to develop mental illnesses: “By the time homeless children are eight years old; one in three has a major mental disorder” (Bassuk et al., 2005, p. 2). More than one-fifth of homeless preschoolers experience emotional problems severe enough to need professional care, but less than one-third of them are able to access proper treatment (Bassuk et al., 2005, p. 2).

Children’s emotional health is affected during homelessness. Almost “fifty percent of school-aged children (47) and 26 of children under age 5” experience depression, anxiety, and aggression while homeless (Nunez, 2000, p. 58). A report mentioned that in “Seattle, WA, and Bucks County, PA, more than half of all homeless children (54 and 51 respectively) have such responses” (Nunez, 2000, p. 58). Numerous sources of stress worsen problems: children are more likely to undergo emotionally negative issues during homelessness if they become unwell, are regularly absent from school, or are “chronically homeless” (Nunez, 2000, p. 58).

Sometimes, these depressing feelings can be hazardous because suicidal tendencies are widespread among homeless children over the age of five (Nunez, 2000, p. 58).

Park, Fertig, and Allison (2011) noted that, according to numerous empirical studies, many homeless children suffer from physical, developmental, behavioral, and emotional difficulties. When considering anything about early school age learning, most scholars acknowledge that a gender gap exists in reading and speaking skills. When discussing the topic of how homelessness can affect childhood development, the home and school settings are crucial focal points of research, but whether or not gender also affects development amongst homeless children is also an area to consider. Clark (2010) used research findings from National Literacy Trust, which conducted a survey on 17,089 children, to determine the gender gap in reading skills and attitudes amongst children. Findings show that the gender gap in reading has increased, where girls read and enjoy reading more than boys (Clark, 2010). Girls also have more positive attitudes toward reading than boys (Clark, 2010). Similar to Clark, Zevenbergen and Ryan (2010) examined the gender factor in understanding differences in attention problems and expressive language and rising academic skills in children. Sampling included 43 children. Findings demonstrate that attention problems affected language skills more among boys than girls (Zevenbergen & Ryan, 2010). Problems that are linked with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) during childhood are connected with academic problems in pre-school and elementary years (Zevenbergen & Ryan, 2010). However, whether or not homelessness and gender are the factors that combine to help determine success or failure in school amongst these children has yet to be determined. Neither Clark (2011) or Zevenbergen and Ryan (2010) analyzed if there was a connection to an unstable home situation that affected the learning situations of the children.

Paths to Homelessness

A number of factors or even combinations of factors cause the state of homelessness in general, and some of these are as follows:
Poverty and the absence of adequate affordable housing are the principle causes of family homelessness (National Coalition for the Homeless, 1999b as cited in Markos & Lima, 2003, p. 118). National data, though not conclusive, indicates that there is a connection between the recent economic recession and the growth of the homeless population (Loftus-Farren, 2011, p. 1744). In addition, HUD reported that “on any given day in January 2008, an average of 614,414 individuals in the United States were homeless, and 42 percent were unsheltered” (Loftus-Farren, 2011, p. 1744). The report continues to assert that, “In total, between October 1, 2007 and September 30, 2008, 1.6 million people found themselves in a homeless shelter for some period of time” (Loftus-Farren, 2011, p. 1744). Furthermore, HUD stressed that, in April 1998, 5.3 million households could not locate housing that they could afford (as cited in Markos & Lima, 2003, p. 118). These families, a representation of one-seventh of the nation’s renters (counting 4.5 million children) “live on less than 50 of the median income in the United States” (Conniff, 1998 as cited in Markos & Lima, 2003, p. 118). Individuals earning the minimum wage should work 87 hours per week to have enough money to pay for a two-bedroom apartment at 30 of their income (National Coalition for the Homeless, 1999a as cited in Markos & Lima, 2003, p. 118). The National Association of State Coordinators for the Education of Children and Youth provided seven main causes of homelessness including: “unemployment, deinstitutionalization of people who are mentally ill, divorce/abandonment, substance abuse, natural catastrophe, physical abuse, and eviction.” On the face of it, these are the major causes of homelessness in the United States of America (Reganick, 1997 as cited in Markos & Lima, 2003, p. 118).

The number of people without healthcare insurance increased by 1.4 million to a total of 41.2 million, putting them at extreme risk of homelessness. An injury or serious illness can rapidly obliterate a family’s income, causing them to lose their housing and become homeless.

Many mothers, fathers, and children become homeless when they are forced to flee their homes to escape domestic violence. Around 32 of homeless mothers report that their current or most recent partner was abusive (Mills, 2001; National Center on Family Homelessness, 1999). Around 90 of these homeless families are headed by a single female parent (National Coalition for the Homeless, 1996 as cited in Markos & Lima, 2003, p. 118). A Ford Foundation study indicated that 50 of women with children who were homeless were running away from domestic abuse (Flohr, 1998 as cited in Markos & Lima, 2003, p. 118). In addition, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (1998) determined that domestic violence is the chief cause of homelessness (as cited in Markos & Lima, 2003, p. 118). Rossi (1989) discovered that many women were running away from domestic violence situations that were so intolerable that homelessness suddenly became a much more favorable alternative (as cited in Markos & Lima, 2003, p. 118).

Effects of Homelessness on Children’s Emotional, Physical, and Mental Health
For many children, homelessness is not a short-lived or once-in-a-lifetime experience; it is a period filled with numerous educational and emotional obstacles that can last for numerous years. Statistics showed that, “[o]n average, children are homeless ten months at a time, or an entire school year…over one-quarter of children (27) have been homeless at least once before” (Nunez, 2000, p. 52). Also, within one year, the typical homeless family resides in three different residences (Nunez, 2000, p. 52). Almost all of these families (93) move at least once in a year, and one out of five (20) relocates three or more times (Nunez, 2000, p. 52). One study showed that “[I]n Norman and Tulsa, OK, and Seattle, WA, children in more than one-third of homeless families (41, 33, and 35 respectively) move every three months” (Nunez, 2000, p. 52).

According to Bassuk et al. 2005, homelessness damages children’s health conditions. It provided some compelling findings from their study of homelessness. They found that homelessness puts families at greater risk for added “traumatic experiences such as assault, witnessing violence, or abrupt separation” (Bassuk et al., 2005, p. 2). Children, parents, and families experience stress from living in a shelter and feeling the need to find a new home, and they also experience “interpersonal difficulties, mental and physical problems, and child related difficulties such as illness” (Bassuk et al., 2005, p. 2). The stresses connected with homelessness can aggravate other trauma-related difficulties and hinder recuperation due to continuing traumatic challenges (p. 2). Bassuk et al. (2005) asserted that homelessness produces “loss of community, routines, possessions, privacy, and security” (p. 2). It disconnects people from their ties and basic notions of privacy and safety. In addition to these findings about families, Bassuk et al. (2005) and other studies determined the specific effects of homelessness on children.

Homeless children frequently undergo “acute and chronic illnesses, upper respiratory disorders, minor skin diseases, ear disorders, gastrointestinal problems, trauma, eye disorders, and lice” (Choi & Snyder, 1999 as cited in Markos & Lima, 2003, p. 119). Homeless children experience twice the number of illnesses as other non-homeless children (Bassuk et al., 2005, p. 2). They endure 200 more ear infections, have four times the incidence of asthma, and are five times more prone to diarrhea and stomach problems (Bassuk et al., 2005, p. 2).

Physical disability is more prevalent among homeless children than non-homeless children. In their study, Park, Fertig, and Allison (2011) reported that, “[f]or example, at 1 and 3 years old, 7 to 8 of the children in the homeless group had a physical disability, compared with 2 to 3 of the housed low-income group” (p. S258).

Homeless children are often 200 of the hungry compared to non-homeless children (Bassuk et al., 2005, p. 2). Around half of children who eat less after becoming homeless (49) show health problems at a rate almost three times that of homeless children who eat the equivalent amount or more (Nunez, 2000, p. 62). For homeless children who do get sufficient food, poor nutrition is a major problem: “They are seven times as likely as non-homeless children to be iron deficient, making them far more susceptible to lead poisoning” (Nunez, 2000, p. 62). Also, statistics showed that “one in five (22) are either severely obese or underweight, facing an increased risk of respiratory and stomach problems” (Nunez, 2000, p. 62). Hunger and poor nutrition harm children’s emotional wellbeing. Not having enough food makes children anxious, “so they experience high levels of stress, low self-worth, and aggressive behavior in children” (Nunez, 2000, p. 62). One study stressed that “children who eat less while homeless are more than twice as likely to suffer emotionally—becoming increasingly fearful, anxious, depressed, or angry—as children who eat the same amount or more” (Nunez, 2000, p. 62). Half of school-age homeless children go through anxiety, depression, or withdrawal compared to 18 of non-homeless children (Bassuk et al., 2005, p. 2). Parker, Rescoria, and Stolley (1991) discovered that “homeless children had behavioral and emotional symptoms in children who were homeless compared to children of similar age and background who were not homeless” (as cited in Markos & Lima, 2003, p. 119).

Homeless children suffer from educational lapses: “Homeless children are twice as likely to repeat a grade compared to non-homeless children” (Bassuk et al., 2005, p. 2). Mental development may be obstructed or delayed every time a child transfers from one school to another (Markos & Lima, 2003, p. 119). Homeless children have problems with school attendance, and the emotional turmoil they feel because of their homelessness can impact their ability to learn (Markos & Lima, 2003, p. 119). Whitman et al. (1990) discovered that “35 of children who were homeless scored at or below the borderline/slow-learner range on the Slossen Intelligence Test, and 67{ were delayed in their ability to use and produce language” (as cited in Markos & Lima, 2003, p. 119). Schmitz, Wagner, and Menke (2001) discovered from their assessment of 162 children under age five who were homeless that “23 had language delays, 12could not complete personal and social development tasks, and 17 lacked gross motor skills” (as cited in Markos & Lima, 2003, p. 119). In another research, Bassuk and Rubin (1987) discovered that nearly 50 of the 81 homeless preschoolers tested had developmental lags, and one-third had more than two forms of developmental lags (as cited in Markos & Lima, 2003, p. 119).

Only 15 of children who are homeless are in preschool programs (National Center on Family Homelessness, 1999; The National Center for Children on Homelessness, 1999). In a similar study, Bassuk and Rosenberg (1990) stressed that preschool “children who were living in shelters were less likely to be enrolled in early childhood education programs” and more often experienced large delays in receptive vocabulary and visual-motor development than a comparison group (as cited in Markos & Lima, 2003, p. 119). Homeless children experience learning problems and have “twice the rate of learning disabilities and three times the rate of emotional and behavioral problems of non-homeless children” (Bassuk et al., 2005, p. 2).
Homeless school-aged children also suffer from bullying. When other students discover that a child is homeless, the response can be spiteful: “According to their parents, 13 of grade-schoolers and 16 of teens are taunted at school for being homeless” (Nunez, 2000, p. 58). Taunting makes children almost twice as likely to feel depression, anxiety, or aggression after becoming homeless.
A study showed that “homeless children are much less likely than non-homeless children to be fully immunized” (Nunez, 2000, p. 58). Those who are not updated on their immunizations are at risk for “contracting measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, or hepatitis” (Nunez, 2000, p. 58). Aside from suffering from the physical effects of these illnesses, the lack of immunization records also delays school enrollment (Nunez, 2000, p. 58).

Developmental Effects

The National Center for Children on Homelessness states that “approximately 87 of school-age homeless children are enrolled in school, although only about 77 attend school regularly” (The National Center for Children on Homelessness, 1999m par 22). The National Center for Children on Homelessness (2000) reported that some homeless children are not allowed to register for school without school and medical records, and some schools prohibit students from registering without a home address. Moreover, there is no transportation available for children in shelters to attend school. Homeless children are “four times as likely to have developmental delays…” especially since they cannot regularly attend classes and they suffer from the anxiety and stress of being homeless (The National Center for Children on Homelessness, 2000).

Long-term homelessness enhances lengthened learning disabilities because they do not have medical records for their admission, whereas, short-term homelessness only enhances shorter period which may not have adverse impacts on the children. Homeless children are, furthermore, “twice as likely to have learning disabilities; twice as likely to repeat a grade due to frequent absences” (The National Center for Children on Homelessness, 1999, par 20).

Older homeless children also experience developmental problems. A research in New York, NY discovered that “roughly three-quarters of homeless children perform below grade level in reading and spelling (75{ and 72 respectively), and half perform below grade level in math (54)” (Nunez, 2000, p. 53). In addition, 16 of these children are in special education classes, a figure that is 33 higher than the national representative (Nunez, 2000, p. 53).
Asthma is one of the most lasting effects of homelessness and the primary health problem faced by homeless children (Nunez, 2000, p. 58). Twenty percent of homeless children develop asthma, which is “almost three times the rate of all children nationally (7)” (Nunez, 2000, p. 58). In New York, NY, Miami, FL, and Richmond, VA, it is a crisis of overwhelming extent, impacting about one-third of homeless children (34, 30, and 30 correspondingly), which is “more than four times the national rate” (Nunez, 2000, p. 58). Poor health, in general, and asthma problems, in particular, diminishes homeless children’s educational development by directly affecting school attendance (Nunez, 2000, p. 58). Thirty-one percent of homeless children mention sickness as the principal cause of school absences and “[t]hose with asthma fare especially badly—they are 21 more likely to miss school than those who are not asthmatic” (Nunez, 2000, p. 58).

Though the government has made improvements to encourage the enrollment of homeless children, obstacles to enrollment are still present. On the national level, around one-fourth of parents (24) have difficulties enrolling or keeping their children in school after becoming homeless (Nunez, 2000, p. 56). They complained of “residency issues (57), lack of transportation (48), lack of records (14), lack of immunizations (10), and guardianship issues (5) as common barriers to enrollment” (Nunez, 2000, p. 56). These obstacles result in homeless children incurring more absences. For cities where absenteeism is the highest, such as Philadelphia, PA, and Tulsa, OK, enrollment problems are mentioned as the main cause of absences (38 and 46 correspondingly) (Nunez, 2000, p. 56).
To worsen their cases, homeless parents are not skilled and knowledgeable in giving their children educational support: “Forty-one percent (41) do not have a high school diploma, and the typical homeless parent reads at the sixth grade level” (Nunez, 2000, p. 56). They frequently feel ill-equipped or too demoralized to become drawn into their child’s schooling (Nunez, 2000, p. 56). As a consequence, their children are more likely to lag behind other students: homeless children whose parents did not finish high school are “47 more likely to repeat a grade and 36 more likely to be in special education classes than those whose parents have a high school diploma” (Nunez, 2000, p. 56). As overwhelming as these findings are, these educational problems from homelessness may not be obvious for years to come (Nunez, 2000, p. 56) A study stressed: “Children who fail to thrive at age 3 may be left back at age 8 and may drop out altogether by age 16” (Nunez, 2000, p. 56). It argues that every child needs stability and support to thrive in academic settings and “homeless children are unlikely to receive either” (Nunez, 2000, p. 56).

Adult Outcomes of Homeless Children

Research reports reveal that the increasing prices on accessible rental property in the United States have put housing of an affordable nature completely out of reach for the poorest Americans (National Center for Children on Homelessness, 1999). Also, in more than forty U.S. states, the household of the renter has a housing wage (the wage a full-time worker must earn to have enough money for fair market rent) of more than twice the existing minimum wage (National Center for Children on Homelessness, 1999). A report stressed that for these “forty states two workers with minimum wage jobs who work 40 hours a week, and fifty-two weeks each year still cannot afford a two-bedroom home at Fair Market Rent” (National Center for Children on Homelessness, 1999). Because of these housing and poverty concerns, homelessness can be a recurring problem that can affect children well into their adulthood years.
The work of Parks, Stevens, and Spence (2007) entitled, “A Systematic Review of Cognition in Homeless Children and Adolescents,” stressed that homelessness affects children and adolescents far beyond their years and can carry lifetime developmental risks. In their study, “Cognitive impairments were noted in adolescents relating to the ‘context of drugs, physical and sexual abuse’” (Parks, Stevens, & Spence, 2007). In the United States, homeless families “lose their community support systems, adversely affecting school participation, their ability to access ‘stress’ related mental health services, and health care” (Parks, Stevens, & Spence, 2007). Findings of Parks, Stevens, and Spence (2007) include the following: “(1) Receptive vocabulary (measured by the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) in homeless children found to be generally in the ‘moderately low’ to ‘extremely low’ range”; (2) A ‘sub-analysis’ of the testing revealed that 11 of homeless children were in “the ‘mildly retarded’ range and 35 were in the ‘slow learner’ borderline range”; and (3) Homeless children “…had ‘three times’ the cognitive and developmental problems that would be expected among children in general” (Parks, Stevens, & Spence, 2007). Pluck et al. (2011) examined the extent of traumatic childhood events in a sampling of homeless individuals to evaluate the involvement of traumatic events with neurobehavioral traits (determined with the Frontal Systems Behavior Scale, FrSBe) and general cognitive function (IQ). Their sampling included 55 homeless adults. Findings revealed that respondents showed considerably high levels of neurobehavioral problems and low IQ’s, as well as high levels of childhood trauma.

Homelessness may eventually lead to children being placed in foster homes. Experiences in these foster homes can have negative effects on the youth. In “From Homeless to Hopeless and Healthless? The Health Impacts of Housing Challenges among Former Foster Care Youth Transitioning to Adulthood in California,” Yen, Powell Hammond, and Kushel (2009) examined the repercussions of foster living on children. One of their crucial findings is: “Difficulties in securing housing (e.g., multiple calls to social workers or housing offices to check on waitlist status) or adapting to housing-related policies breed distrust or dissatisfaction with other institutional agencies” (p. 90).

The Qualitative Approach

Strengths and Weakness of Qualitative Design and Methods
Qualitative research on homelessness in children has strengths emanating from observation of homeless children. Some of the strengths of the research may include: the study tends to have a strong reliability. This is because researchers who have used the approach have managed to establish about 80 percent reliability. Secondly, generalizability which means that once an individual has devised his instrument, it means even large samples can be covered. It is also precise as there is no muddling through or hanging around (Maykut & Morehouse, 1994). Lastly, the approach is devoid of observer bias. On the other hand, weaknesses do exist as well. First, the approach may not be good for creating fresh insights in homeless children. It also ignores the spatial and temporal context from which data is gathered. Much as the approach has reliability, a small portion of unreliability which emanates from measurement methods (Robson, 2002).

Threats to Validity

There may be threats to the validity of the research owing to the fact that children may lie to gain favor from the researcher. This might be because they fear adults and the only way to please them is to lie. This makes the research invalid. For instance, a child may be a runaway errand, but not homeless, he may lie about his home status to gain sympathy. Issues of validity can be addressed in the study through aiming at understanding and seeking quality through critical elements with plausible interpretations (Maykut & Morehouse, 1994).

Appropriateness of Qualitative Research Design

Qualitative research approach is strong for studying homeless children. This is because actions can be contextualized within time and situations. Grounded theory is often generated from empirical data and subsequently, there is what is called closeness of fit between data and theory. Though the research has elicited a flurry of criticism concerning its lack of generalizability, there are two ways it can be generalizable: it can be generated through the theory which becomes available to others for applying and testing. Secondly, it can begin as a single study but with time it can be reinterpreted by other studies. In studying homeless children, the research can be used as a stepping stone by other researchers later in order to generate generalizability (Robson, 2002).

Measurement Constructs and how to Operationalize them
Unobtrusive measures check whether the subject is playing up because the researcher is there. A researcher might deem this as inauthentic especially if the subjects behave in an abnormal manner. Though it is hard to be wholesomely unobtrusive, however, the main aim is to ensure at least this is achieved. The researcher can also conduct respondent validation which helps the researcher understand with accuracy. In other words, the whole concept of homelessness is captured to the fullest. Lastly, triangulation is a process which measures the timing and methodology used by the researcher in exploring options (Mason, 2002).

The Proposed Sample

Qualitative research involves several variables that can be used for human research. For instance, in the case of homelessness in children, the overriding aspect is that the main focus should be pegged on children especially school age. By knowing that the sample focuses on children, the age matters because when the researcher focuses on school age children, it means they lay emphasis on certain age-group. The other concern about age could be because of the fact that younger children do have limited concentration (Maykut & Morehouse, 1994). They also do not have strong language command that make them comprehend what the researcher asks. The other sample the researcher can use is race where the white homeless children are gathered together while African-American homeless children are grouped separately for faster differentiation. The other sample that can be used is gender which will provide a homogenous group that sample males and females separately because they tend to have different experiences with regard to homelessness (Maykut & Morehouse, 1994).

Sampling Method

In qualitative research, the most desirable sampling method in the case of homeless children is representative. This is because it covers people, time and places. For that reason, in studying homeless children, it deals with people and using representative sampling would best suit the research. This is because there are varied reasons that compel children into the streets or become homeless for that matter. The point can also help in time because the children go to the streets at varied times. It will help in generating samples in relation to the ages, gender, ethnic background and school level of the children (Maykut & Morehouse, 1994).

Data Collection

?In qualitative research, there are several methods of collecting and analyzing data. Data can be collected through a number of respondents say 20 who are homeless. The respondents should be children of a homogenous age. They will be asked several questions about their homes through interviews or questionnaires. The research can be conducted over a period of time. Gender should also be another factor for consideration when collecting data through a sample of females and males separately. In this case, interviewing is the best method of data collection because it deals with children of different categories (Mason, 2002).

Ethical Issues in the Study

Qualitative research does have ethical issues to grapple with, they revolve around the hostility between the public’s overt and covert research. It also relates to the right of the public to know the statistics on homeless children in the United States and also the right to privacy of the interviews conducted. For instance, when interviewing homeless children, it is not advisable that the conversation is taped or video recorded (Maykut & Morehouse, 1994). However, there is that little temptation for researchers to shoot video as evidence to their findings when they come under criticisms. Deceptive means used by researchers in persuading the subjects to spill the beans and then run away is an unacceptable practice as it goes contrary to the ‘informed consent’ principle. Because it is about privacy invasion, it is only natural to be honest with the subject as well (Mason, 2002).

Summary and Conclusion

For many children, homelessness is not a fleeting or once-in-a-lifetime experience; it is a period filled with plentiful educational and emotional obstacles with lasting effects on their health and success. Homelessness puts families at greater risks for added traumatic experiences such as assault, witnessing violence, or abrupt separation. Homeless children experience twice the number of illnesses as other non-homeless children. They also tend to develop mental illnesses more than non-homeless children.

Children’s emotional health is affected during homelessness. Homeless school-aged children also suffer from bullying. Though the government has made improvements to encourage the enrollment of homeless children, obstacles to enrollment are still present. On the national level, around one-fourth of parents (24 ) have difficulties enrolling or keeping their children in school after becoming homeless (Nunez, 2000, p. 56).

Based on these studies, homeless children experience physical, mental, and emotional problems that can produce deleterious outcomes in terms of their adult lives. Homeless children have high incidence of low-achievement and low-levels of economic success. They also have higher rates of physical, emotional, and mental illnesses. Because homeless children live in a manner that affects their emotional, physical, and mental development and makes their education disjointed, they suffer from developmental problems that can further reinforce their poverty and homelessness in the long run. Unless they get adequate medical and social support, these effects can impact society, by creating a generation of individuals trapped in the cycle of poverty.


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