Homelessness and its relation to the mental health and behavior of low-income school-age children

Dev Psychol. 1999 Jan;35(1):246-57. doi: 10.1037//0012-1649.35.1.246.


This study examined the relationship between housing status and depression, anxiety, and problem behaviors among children age 6 and older who were members of low-income, single-parent, female-headed families. Participants were 80 homeless and 148 never homeless children living in Worcester, Massachusetts. Children in both groups had recently been exposed to various severe stressors. Mother-reported problem behaviors were above normative levels for both homeless and poor housed youths but self-reported depression and anxiety were not. Controlling for other explanatory variables, housing status was associated with internalizing problem behaviors but not with externalizing behaviors. Among homeless youths, internalizing behavior problems showed a positive but curvilinear relationship with number of weeks having lived in a shelter. Housing status was not associated with self-reported depression and anxiety. Findings are discussed in terms of their implications for programmatic interventions and in light of recent welfare reform.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / classification
  • Child Behavior Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Homeless Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Housing / standards
  • Housing / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Social Adjustment
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Time Factors