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The effects of homelessness on the mental and behavioral health of children: A phenomenological study

Dissertation
Author: Toi Neshae Dennis
Abstract:
A phenomenological approach was used to gain a better understanding of the homelessness and the effects it has on children's mental and behavioral health. This study examined and described six parents or guardians and four shelter personnel perceptions of homelessness and how it affects children's mental and behavioral health. The results of this study indicated through five emergent themes that children who became homeless suffered from depression, anxiety and behavioral problems. The first findings of the study clearly indicated that homeless children present with a multitude of individual problems, in addition to having mental and behavioral issues. The second finding of the study warranted the need to further examine how childhood experiences, substance abuse, mental illness, and other risk factors impede the ability for homeless women and men to sustain and retain housing. The third and last finding of the study illuminated the importance of professionals and service providers having an awareness and understanding of how prevalent childhood and later life traumatic experiences are in the lives of homeless children.

v Table of Contents Page Acknowledgments..................................................................................................iv List of Tables.......................................................................................................viii List of Figures........................................................................................................ix CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION......................................................................................1 Introduction to the Problem....................................................................................1 Background of the Study........................................................................................1 Statement of the Problem........................................................................................3 Purpose of the Study...............................................................................................4 Rationale.................................................................................................................5 Research Questions.................................................................................................6 Significance of the Study........................................................................................6 Definition of Terms.................................................................................................7 Assumptions and Limitations.................................................................................8 Nature of the Study...............................................................................................10 Organization of the Remainder of the Study........................................................11 CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW.........................................................................12 Introduction...........................................................................................................12 Theoretical Framework.........................................................................................13 Review of Critical Literature................................................................................19 Review Summary..................................................................................................35 Evaluation of Viable Research Designs................................................................35

vi Chapter Summary.................................................................................................36 CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY……………………………………………………….38

Introduction...........................................................................................................38 Researcher’s Philosophy.......................................................................................38 Research Design....................................................................................................41 Research Design Strategy.....................................................................................43 Sampling Design...................................................................................................43 Measures...............................................................................................................44 Data Collection Procedures...................................................................................45 Field Test..............................................................................................................47 Data Analysis Procedures.....................................................................................48 Limitations of Methodology.................................................................................49 Internal Validity....................................................................................................49 External Validity...................................................................................................50 Ethical Issues........................................................................................................50 Conclusion........................................................................................................................52 Introduction...........................................................................................................53 Descriptive Characteristics of the Sample............................................................55 Individual Participant Discourse Summaries........................................................56 Data Collection and Organization.........................................................................64 Data Analysis........................................................................................................67 Interview Questions for Parents............................................................................67 Interview Questions for Shelter Personnel...........................................................84

vii Major Themes.......................................................................................................93 Summary.............................................................................................................100 CHAPTER 5. RESULTS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS………...102

Introduction.........................................................................................................102 Summary of the Study........................................................................................102 Discussion of Results..........................................................................................103 Comparison of Findings with Prior Research.....................................................107 Limitations of the Study......................................................................................115 Implications of the Findings...............................................................................117 Recommendations for Further Research.............................................................118 Conclusion..........................................................................................................119 REFERENCES...............................................................................................................123 APPENDIX A. QUESTIONNAIRE FOR PARENTS/GUARDIANS..Error! Bookmark not defined. APPENDIX B. QUESTIONNAIRE FOR SHELTER PERSONNEL...Error! Bookmark not defined.

viii List of Tables

Table 1. Parent/Guardian Descriptive Characteristic Sample ……….........................

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Table 2. Shelter Personnel Descriptive Characteristic Sample ………………..........

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ix List of Figures

Figure 1. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs …………………………………………….

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CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION Introduction to the Problem The issue of homelessness for children and their families has posed a significant social and public health issue in the United States for the past two decades (Graham- Bermann & Ramirez, 2003). Homelessness is a devastating experience for any family. Every aspect of family life is disrupted. Homelessness damages physical and emotional health of family members, interferes with children’s education and development, and results in separation of family members (Bassuk, 2004). A child can derive a significant amount of stress in his or her life from a homeless situation. As the number of homeless families increases, so does the number of homeless children suffering from mental health and behavioral problems (Anooshian, 2003). Homeless families have received attention due to concerns of being without a home and also because a large number of children may be at risk for this experience. Changes in welfare reform have increased homelessness rates among the general population (Frame, 2001). As more financial challenges are created, more individuals are unable to cope, and more families, many with school-age children, become homeless. Clearly, homeless children represent a rapidly increasing societal problem. Its negative and stressful impact on children of all ages emphasizes society’s need to address this issue. Children suffer greatly from the experience of homelessness, and the extent to which this occurs needs to be investigated to develop effective interventions. Background of the Study For both adults and children, homelessness represents an ever-increasing reality (Arnstein, 2004). According to various organizations that serve and monitor homeless

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populations, families with children constitute the greatest rate of increase among homeless subgroups (Moroz & Segal, 1990). In 1996, approximately 400,000 families with an estimated 900,000 children remained homeless (Burt et al., 1999). According to Hicks-Coolick, Burnside-Eaton, and Peters (2008), the United States of America has 800,000 homeless families on any given night, and as many as 3.5 million Americans are homeless at some time each year. Children comprise between 25%and 39% of the homeless population, translating to more than a million homeless children in America (Hicks-Coolick et al., 2008). With the exception of a small number of published studies that focus on physical health, mental health, and the education of homeless children, most data available on homeless families derives from general demographics (Arnstein, 2004). Primarily, most existing research involving homeless children and their families has examined its impact (Munro & Page, 1993) while emphasizing the need for additional studies. Their data indicate that homeless children may experience a constellation of risks that have a devastating impact on their well-being (Averitt, 2003). Homelessness studies strongly suggest that homeless children experience many problems directly associated with not having a home base (Biswas-Diener & Diener, 2006). Hicks-Coolick et al. (2008) found that children who are homeless are more likely to have a history of low birth weight, anemia, dental decay, and to be remiss in immunization schedules. Generally, children’s health problems increase with the duration of homelessness. Homeless children frequently suffer from anxiety, depression, and other diverse behavior problems (Averitt, 2003). Past studies of life stress and social support also display methods of assuaging these negative impacts (Arnstein, 2004). The quantity

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and quality of children’s social support, for example, could moderate the potential impacts of homelessness and residential instability. While homeless children experience physical health and mental health problems, their education may also be affected. According to Arnstein (2004), 43% of school-age homeless children stop attending school. Homeless school-age children fall behind in grade levels and overall academic performance. Homeless children suffer from diverse forms of physical health, mental health, and lack of education. As homeless families transition from one shelter to another, and access various shelter programs, the health and well-being of homeless children may seriously be affected (Hicks-Coolick et al., 2008). It is important to gain a better understanding of how parents or guardians and homeless shelter personnel perceive the effects of homelessness on the mental and behavioral health of children. An obvious lack of data and analysis exists regarding and understanding of the affects homelessness has on the mental and behavioral health of children. Therefore, additional research is needed to further enhance this knowledge base.

Statement of the Problem As the number of homeless families increases, so do the number of homeless children suffering from significant mental health and behavioral problems (Anooshian, 2003). The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of how homelessness affects children’s mental and behavioral health, through the perceptions of parents or guardians and homeless shelter personnel. A gap in literature exists regarding knowledge and understanding of the effects of homelessness on the mental and behavioral health of

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homeless children. The current research sought to explore the effects of homelessness on children; specifically their mental and behavioral health. The research question focuses on how parents, guardians and shelter personnel perceive the effects of homelessness on children’s mental and behavioral health. To understand how homelessness affects mental and behavioral health, it is important to understand parents’, guardians’ and shelter personnel’s perceptions of the effects of homelessness on children. These perceptions are important because they inform first-hand experiences in child development. Parents, guardians and shelter personnel directly influence this development. Parents or guardians may be best able to identify homeless children’s needs, and to identify those changes homeless children undergo. Shelter personnel’s observations are pertinent because they experienced one-on-one interactions with homeless children and their families. Because parents or guardians and shelter personnel may hold valuable insights into the mental and behavioral health of homeless children, an understanding of their perceptions is needed to develop relevant and effective intervention strategies for homeless children’s mental and behavioral problems.

Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of how homelessness affects children’s mental and behavioral health through the perceptions of parents or guardians and homeless shelter personnel. Parents or guardians and shelter personnel perceptions were pertinent because both groups were able to share invaluable life experiences. Findings from this study may supplement professionals’ understanding of the mental and behavioral health issues faced by homeless school-age children.

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Rationale The research findings from this study revealed the need for family-oriented programs. These programs might consider homeless families’ emotional status, including traumatic life stressors and emotional events incurred by homeless children. Public assistance cutbacks in federal and state aid to poor families have contributed to economic stress on many families, raised the threat of increased economic stress on many families, and heightened their vulnerability to homelessness (Bonnie, 1999). By employing a qualitative approach, the perceptions of parents, guardians and shelter personnel were explored in the present study to gain understanding of the effects of homelessness on the mental and behavioral health of children. Social service professionals need more knowledge of homelessness and how it affects children’s mental and behavioral health. Further research is needed to address existing gaps in knowledge regarding homelessness’ affects on the mental and behavioral health of children. Homeless children’s anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems, engendered by destructive psychological environments, interfere with their capacity to learn (Averitt, 2003). Homeless children and their families need access to safe, clean shelters or transitional housing. By minimizing school and services disruptions, homeless children may be able to adapt more easily to being homeless, buffering or decreasing negative effects (Bassuk, 2004). Information and knowledge gained from this research may help social service professionals effectively understand homelessness and its effects on the mental and behavioral health of children.

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Research Questions The current research focused on two specific research questions, designed to illicit detailed information regarding the effects of homelessness on the mental and behavioral health of school-age children. The research questions are: 1. How do parents or guardians describe the effects of homelessness on their children’s mental and behavioral health? 2. How do shelter personnel describe the effects of homelessness on children’s mental and behavioral health? Answers to the research questions will provide information needed to identify and describe the mental and behavioral health of homeless children. These parents, guardians and homeless shelter personnel are in direct contact with homeless children, and they possess important direct knowledge about the state of homeless children. These groups of informants can provide relevant data needed to inform an effective understanding of the results of homelessness on the mental and behavioral health of children.

Significance of the Study Implications for this study are clearly rooted in phenomenology because “phenomenology does not produce empirical or theoretical observations or accounts, but instead offers accounts of experienced space, time, body, and human relation as we live them” (Van Manen, 1990, p. 184). A phenomenological approach may aid in understanding parent, guardian and shelter personnel perceptions of the effects of homelessness on the mental and behavioral health of children. The research adds to the limited body of knowledge and research on the effects of homelessness on the mental

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health of children. It has the potential to increase awareness among social service professionals, researchers, and policymakers. Current research indicates a need for studying how parents, guardians and shelter personnel perceive the effects of homelessness on children’s mental and behavioral health (Bassuk, 2004). Their experiences are missing from the body of knowledge. To date, this represents an obvious omission in the knowledge base and literature. Participating parents, guardians and shelter personnel may also change their perceptions of their roles—they may conclude that if thetopic is worthy of studying, their roles must be also worthy. Analysis of the study’s data revealed the essence of their lived experiences, and their perceptions of how homelessness affects the mental and behavioral health of children.

Definition of Terms For the purposes of this study, the following terms are defined: Behavioral health. Behavioral healthis defined asthe reciprocal relationship between human behavior, socially or individually, and the well-being of the mind, body, and spirit (Matarazzo, 1980). This term is often used interchangeably with “mental health.” Homeless families. Homeless familiesare defined as men and women with children, who are permanently, temporarily, or periodically without homes; without financial resources; and with limited access to healthcare, housing, or other social services(AHHA, 2006).

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Mental health. Mental health is defined as a state of emotional and psychological well being in which an individual is able to use his or her cognitive and emotional capabilities, function in society, and meet the ordinary demands of everyday life (Farlex, 2007). This term is often used interchangeably with “behavioral health.” Parent or Guardian. Parent is defined as one who begets, gives birth to, or nurtures and raises a child (Farlex, 2007). This does not limit the term guardian simply to the child’s biological father or mother, but also includes relatives, caregivers, and individuals who nurtured and raised the child, but did not give birth to the child. Perception. Perception is defined as the synthesis of observations, expectations, and learned experiences that one person applies to another person, action, or set of outcomes (McCombs & Whisler, 1997). Shelter director. Shelter director is defined as someone who supervises, controls, or manages a homeless shelter for families with children (Farlex, 2007). Shelter personnel. Shelter personnel are defined as those who are employed by or active in a homeless shelter for families with children (Farlex, 2007). This term may be used interchangeably with “counselor,” a person who advises clients regarding educational, occupational alternatives, and personal problems.

Assumptions and Limitations Current research identifies perceived relationships between homelessness and the mental and behavioral health of children. Perceptions were limited to parents, guardians and shelter personnel. Although families with children, in general, are increasingly noted to experience homelessness, every family’s experience of being homeless is unique. Each

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experience depends on the causes of the homelessness and local, state, and federal services available to the family. Generalizations about homeless children and families are inaccurate and misleading if the varied experiences of homeless children and families are not taken into account (Averitt, 2003). This study assumes that homeless children will experience some mental and behavioral health problems. Logic and previous research concur that these assumptions are true. Also assumed is that study participants will have the ability to describe homelessness’ affects on the mental and behavioral health of children. Further assumed is that age, gender, and length of duration of homelessness all represent variable factors that contribute to how homelessness affects the mental and behavioral health of children. Study limitations and difficulties were also considered. Greenstein (2006) pointed out that participants may doubt the confidentiality of their answers, and therefore, may not answer truthfully, which would challenge data validity. Locating and identifying reliable and competent participants also posed a problem. Because the sample population was comprised of homeless individuals, there was a possibility that some participants would also be subject to mental and behavioral disorders, thus presenting a potential selection bias limitation. Face-to-face interviews can be time-consuming when involving a large sample. Only a limited number of interviews can be conducted with homeless parents and their children because of unpredictable life circumstances. Another problem concerned compulsory breach of participant confidentiality if court orders mandate the release information. This requires disclosure of information in a consent form (National Coalition for the Homeless [NCFH], 2006). Another obvious limitation was the study’s

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reliance on interviews. Using the phenomenological research method, the researcher interviewed six participating families and four homeless shelter personnel. Reliability of answers was also circumspect because of the characteristics of the sample population. Despite these limitations, this study was warranted because it contributes to the knowledge base of this area of research. It will help to fill the existing literature gap while enhancing knowledge of social service professionals.

Nature of the Study Phenomenological research methods were used to conduct the study because families who are homeless have unique experiences. This form of research strategy represents an appropriate approach because its intent is to understand and describe an event from a participant’s point of view (Mertens, 2005). According to Douglas (1996), research that has been evaluated and describes children who are homeless revealed alarmingly high levels of emotional disturbance, developmental delays, and psychopathology among this population. Phenomenological research seeks individuals’ perceptions and meanings of a phenomenon or experience (Mertens, 2005).Phenomenological research applies because parents, guardians and shelter personnel will share their perspectives of homelessness and affects on children’s mental and behavioral health. A qualitative strategy is helpful in offering a unique perspective that aids in illuminating certain aspects of reality (Denzin & Lincoln, 1998). In this case, a phenomenological approach was deemed useful to yield results from people who have first-person experience. Phenomenological inquiry focuses on people’s experience and

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seeks to understand the essence or structure of a phenomenon. The characteristic defining phenomenological research is its focus on describing the “essence” of a phenomenon from the perspectives of those who have experienced it (Merriam, 2002). This choice of methodology is useful in extracting participant information to capture the perceived meaning of the experience. In this case, the central research question being asked is, “How do parents, guardians and shelter personnel perceive the effects of homelessness on the mental and behavioral health of children?”

Organization of the Remainder of the Study This chapter delineated the present study by defining the problem, briefly establishing the state of knowledge of this topic, and presenting the framework of the research topic; “how do parents, guardians and shelter personnel perceive the effects of homelessness on the mental and behavioral health of children?” In Chapter 2, the theoretical framework of the study is presented. It also includes the review and analysis of appropriate literature related to the problem described in Chapter 1. Next, the methodology and design of the study, sample population, organization of collected data, data analysis, and ethical considerations are presented in Chapter 3. In Chapter 4, data collection procedures and data analysis are described. Finally, Chapter 5 includes a summary of the study, findings, conclusions, and recommendations for future research.

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CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW Introduction A fast growing segment of the homeless population is families with children (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2007). In 1995 alone, 4.2% of children under oneyear of age were homeless (Urban Institute, 2000). The inconsistent lifestyle associated with homelessness, lack of healthcare services, and unsatisfactory living conditions increase homeless children’s risk of chronic illnesses, including respiratory and ear infections, gastrointestinal ailments, and sexually-transmitted diseases (Alston, 1998). Many homeless children also suffer from depression and anxiety. They exhibit increased behavioral problems, which may lead to substance abuse, prostitution, and felonious crime (Averitt, 2003). A dearth of information exists on homeless children, particularly research including direct information from shelter administrators and staff who house the children’s parents or the children themselves. Bhui, Shanahan, and Harding (2006) conducted a literature review of users’ perceptions of services for mentally ill homeless people between 1992 and 2002, using 15 different search terms in the following databases: IBSS, PsycInfo, PubMed, SSCI and Medline. Data mining located only 22 articles that dealt specifically with homelessness and mental health. Among those articles, only nine referred to homeless person’s perceptions of services for mental health problems. Of those relevant articles, some were 15 years old. This scarcity of literature demonstrates a lack of interest and research concerning views of homeless people’s mental and behavioral health by researchers.

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The goal of this chapter is to review current literature, identify gaps in scientific knowledge and establish the need for phenomenological research in this area. The chapter will (a) describe the study’s theoretical framework, (b) examine similar scholarly and peer-reviewed databases such as those used by Bhui et al. (2006), and (c) explore literature related to the mental and behavioral health, experiences and well-being of the general homeless population, including homeless adults, adolescents, and children.

Theoretical Framework Research on homeless children is noted for an absence of a theoretical framework to explain findings concerning their mental and behavioral health issues. Very few studies have examined homelessness and its effects on the mental and behavioral health of children using Maslow’s (1970) hierarchy of needs. In fact, in many studies, the ages of homeless children are all grouped together and the mental health and behavioral health concerns were overlooked. The absence of a theoretical perspective in researching homeless children is significant, resulting in generalized, superficial and descriptive studies (Rafferty & Shinn, 1991).

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Maslow (1970), often called the father of humanistic psychology, was one of the primary leaders focusing interest on the psychologically healthy individual. Maslow constructed a hierarchal theory of human personality and motivation, which consists of five basic needs, including physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self- actualization (see Figure 1). Maslow described physiological needs as breathing, food,

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water, sex, sleep, homeostasis, and excretion. Physiological needs are known to be the most pre-potent of all needs. Maslow believed that when human beings do not satisfy all their physiological needs, then all other needs are pushed into the background or become nonexistent. For a homeless child who is extremely hungry and lacking sleep, physiological needs can control thoughts and behaviors, which may cause pain, discomfort, dysfunction and illness.

Figure 1. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. When physiological needs are sufficiently gratified, a new set of needs, called safety needs, emerges. Maslow (1970) described safety needs as security of body, of employment, of resources, of mortality, of the family, of health, and of property. These needs pertain to peoples’ desires to live in a predictable, controlled world consisting of justice and constancy. According to Maslow’s theory, obtaining adequate food, clothing, and shelter becomes utterly crucial to human physiological well-being. Children who become homeless with their families experience an abrupt environmental alteration that

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compromises their safety and security. The impact of such a traumatic experience could possibly lead to illness, behavioral changes, including development of fears, nightmares, and heightened protection and reassurance needs (Averitt, 2003). According to Maslow (1970), if both physiological and safety needs are achieved, love, affection, and belongingness needs will emerge. Maslow described these needs as friendship, family, and sexual intimacy. Human beings need a sense of belonging and acceptance. They need to love and be loved. Maslow believed that in the absence of these elements, some people might become susceptible to social anxiety, loneliness, and depression. Homeless children may also be susceptible to these same problems. When a family becomes separated because of homelessness, children may lose a sense of love and belongingness, leading to intense issues having long-term effects on each child’s overall well-being. Maslow (1970) believed that all people in our society desire respect, think highly of themselves, require self-esteem, and need to respect others. He described esteem needs as self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, and respect by others. Satisfaction of self-esteem needs leads to a person feeling self confident, capable, adequate, useful and necessary in the world (Maslow, 1970). Homeless children may develop low self-esteem because of their living arrangements. For example, when children relocate to a homeless shelter, they may be embarrassed because of this new living arrangement. Maslow’s (1970) final hierarchical need is self-actualization. He described self- actualization as morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, and acceptance of facts. Maslow theorized that even when other basic needs are satisfied, new

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discontents and restlessness may develop. Therefore, an individual who sets out to be a teacher or lawyer must teach or practice law to be ultimately at peace with oneself (Maslow, 1970). A small percentage of people do self-actualize, which normally happens during adulthood. This portion of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs will not be addressed in this study because the study focuses on children. It may be impossible for a homeless child to reach the top of Maslow’s hierarchy because other needs on the pyramid are not being fulfilled. Researchers have applied Maslow’s (1970) hierarchy of needs to aid in assessing needs for mental health services. Mottaghipour and Bickerton (2005) used Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to develop a general framework for mental health professionals. His general framework expanded into a family care pyramid consisting of five levels: (a) connection and assessment, (b) general education, (c) psychoeducation, (d) consultation, and (e) family therapy. Goldberg (1967) also conducted a study using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory. Goldberg’s research compared satisfaction of self-esteem to belongingness needs of psychotic inpatients engaged in rehabilitation programs. Goldberg (1967) determined a positive relationship between needs and the rehabilitation process. His findings were consistent with Maslow’s theory of self-esteem and belongingness. Researchers have applied Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to adult mental health studies. Conversely, few studies apply Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to children’s mental and behavioral health. The present study applied Maslow’s (1970) hierarchy of needs theory to better understand how homelessness affects the mental and behavioral health of children. Its application stems from a presupposition that the most basic needs of homeless children

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are not met, which may then affect their mental and behavioral health. Few recent research efforts apply Maslow’s theory of needs to the mental and behavioral health of children. Using Maslow’s (1970) hierarchy of needs as a theoretical guide, the present study provides a phenomenological glimpse into how parents and shelter personnel perceive the affects of homelessness on the mental and behavioral health of children. Human beings must satisfy each basic need, which means that satisfying the physiological and safety needs of children who are homeless becomes crucial. Having a place to live, food to eat, and stability are most important. When lower needs are satisfied (e.g., human–physiological development) individuals become concerned with higher ordered needs of personal development and influence (Norwood, 1999).

Crucial Theoretical–Conceptual Debates Maslow (1970) developed a pyramid based on a set of needs that he prioritized into a hierarchy. He derived the hierarchy from two defining conclusions. First, human needs are either of an attraction/desire nature or of an avoidance nature because humans are “wanting beings.” Once one need is satisfied, another will require satiation (Barker, 2004). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs explained basic human needs and offered a brief explanation of the importance of meeting each need. Alderfer (1980) further expanded Malsow’s hierarchy of needs into his existence, relatedness, and growth theory (ERG). Alderfer used Maslow’s physiological and safety needs, categorizing them into the existence category. In his relatedness category, he included Maslow’s love and self-esteem needs. Finally, in his growth category, he incorporated Maslow’s self-esteem and self-actualization needs. The ERG theory posited

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that movement among needs levels is not necessarily linear. If higher order needs are not satiated, an individual might regress to a lower ordered need (Alderfer, 1980). In addition to reducing the number of needs levels, Alderfer’s (1980) theory differed from Maslow’s in other applications. The ERG theory allowed for different leveled needs to be pursued simultaneously. The ERG theory allowed the order of needs to be different for different people. The ERG theory acknowledged that, if a higher level need is unsatisfied, an individual may regress to a lower level need that appears easier to satisfy (Alderfer, 1980). Like Maslow’s model, the ERG theory is hierarchical: existence needs have priority over relatedness needs, which then have priority over growth needs (Alderfer, 1980). Homeless children’s existence needs, sleep and food for example, have priority over growth needs, such as safety and belonging. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs indicated that a person does not feel the second need until the first need is satisfied. Ventegodt, Merrick, and Jorgen-Anderson (2003) argued that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is not factual. Ventegodt et al. (2003) believed that, inherently, people always try to actualize themselves, but when life takes a turn, people have to modify themselves. Later in their lives, people may grasp their problems and heal their imbalances. Maslow referred to this process as personal growth (Ventegodt et al., 2003).

Full document contains 145 pages
Abstract: A phenomenological approach was used to gain a better understanding of the homelessness and the effects it has on children's mental and behavioral health. This study examined and described six parents or guardians and four shelter personnel perceptions of homelessness and how it affects children's mental and behavioral health. The results of this study indicated through five emergent themes that children who became homeless suffered from depression, anxiety and behavioral problems. The first findings of the study clearly indicated that homeless children present with a multitude of individual problems, in addition to having mental and behavioral issues. The second finding of the study warranted the need to further examine how childhood experiences, substance abuse, mental illness, and other risk factors impede the ability for homeless women and men to sustain and retain housing. The third and last finding of the study illuminated the importance of professionals and service providers having an awareness and understanding of how prevalent childhood and later life traumatic experiences are in the lives of homeless children.