Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Paul A. Toro, Ph.D.


Relatively little of the existing research on homelessness has focused on children. Those studies that do exist suggest that homeless children experience serious psychological and environmental problems. However, findings are inconsistent and most are comprised of nonrepresentative samples, have a limited range of measures with no evidence of reliability and validity, and, most importantly, lack appropriate comparison groups on which to base their results. The present study attempts to determine if there is a higher occurrence of psychological and environmental problems in homeless children when compared to a carefully matched sample of housed children using the same interview protocol and procedures. This study attempts to compare a representative sample of 54 homeless children (ages 4-10) to 54 demographically matched housed poor children on various psychological and environmental variables. A representative sample of homeless mothers with dependent children were recruited in the Detroit Metropolitan area. The comparison groups of housed mothers with dependent children were matched for age, gender, race, maternal age, and neighborhood (same zip code as the previous home of the currently homeless family). Mental health status was measured using the CBCL and Perceived Competence Scales. Environmental variables included privacy, safety, comfort, spaciousness, friendliness, overall quality, exposure to domestic and community violence. A series of MANOVAs and Chi Squares were used to examine differences between the two groups (housed vs. homeless). Results indicated that the homeless children came from environments with more violence, less safety, spaciousness, and overall quality. The two groups did not differ on psychological variables: however, both the homeless and the housed had significantly higher scores on the CBCL than normative samples. Implications of this study suggest that, at least in the short-term, homelessness may not necessarily be detrimental to children's psychological functioning, particularly relative to the effects of poverty.