Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What else makes homeless families different than other poor families?

The fourth in the ICPH series on families with young children who become homeless identifies still another trait that distinguishes them from poor families who never become homeless.

How old was mom when she gave birth?

Poor women who never became homeless gave birth when they were older. Mothers who became homeless were around 20; under 20 if they were unmarried and lacked a high school education. Mothers who never became homeless were 22-23.

One of the really unfortunate side effects is the impact on the children of young mothers. They are more likely “to have academic and behavioral problems, to display delinquent behaviors such as truancy and fighting, to be incarcerated, and to initiate early sexual activity and become young mothers themselves.”

Homeless and at risk mothers had children with more partners than those who did not become homeless. Having multiple partners “has become increasingly prevalent, particularly among the poor, minority, and unmarried. This growth is alarming; multiple-partner fertility is associated among both mothers and fathers with relationship instability, decreased rates of marriage, lower social support from friends and family, and higher rates of depression.” Their children exhibit poor physical health and more externalizing behaviors like aggression, defiance, theft, vandalism, etc.

While we see the family when the mother and child or children are older, the homeless children who come through our program show the academic, behavioral and health problems the study describes.

The brief goes on to recommend that policy makers interested in reducing child and family homelessness consider programs promoting responsible family planning. We would add, and promote the value of education, and parenting, and job skills, … The list goes on and on.