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Impact of Homelessness on Children

Impact of Homelessness on Children

When we think about people who are experiencing homelessness, we usually think about adults. Sadly, millions of children experience homelessness every year. These children sleep in abandoned cars, streets and abandoned buildings. Their families relocate constantly, which results in the children being pulled out of school if they attend at all and away from friends. Homelessness has a lot of impacts on children in nearly every way:

Homelessness is traumatic for children because they often experience frequent moves, family split-ups, and living in crowded places before using homeless shelters. 

Homeless children are sick at twice the rate of other children. They suffer a lot of sicknesses such as ear infections, asthma, diarrhea, stomach problems and many more.

Homelessness and hunger are closely intertwined. Homeless children always experience hunger. Hunger has negative effects on the physical, social, emotional and cognitive development of children. 

Most homeless children have witnessed violence and some have been separated from their families. Exposure to violence can cause a number of psychosocial difficulties for children both emotionally (depression, anxiety, withdrawal) and behaviorally (aggression, acting out). 

Homeless children have mental health problems requiring clinical evaluation.

By the time homeless children are eight years old, one in three has a major mental disorder. 

They suffer from emotional or behavioral problems that interfere with learning at almost three times the rate of other children.Been able to go to school is another problem. Some when they manage to go they don’t attend regularly thereby pulling them back academically. Some schools don’t even allow

homeless children to register without school and medical records or without a home address. 

Homeless children lack stability in their lives with 97% having moved at least once on an annual basis, which leads to disruptions in schooling and negatively impacts academic achievement.  

Homeless children who are able to attend school have more problems learning in school:

Compared with other children, homeless children are four times as likely to have developmental delays

Twice as likely to have learning disabilities

Twice as likely to repeat a grade, most often due to frequent absences and moves to new schools 

Impact of Domestic Violence on Children

Children who live in a home where abuse occurs are also always affected by it. Research indicates that abuse in a family may be the single most important risk factor for child maltreatment. Children don’t need to see the abuse to be affected by it. It is obvious that children who are abused suffer a great deal; however, children who witness abuse are similarly affected. Children also see the consequences of the abuse after it has occurred. They may observe bruises, torn clothes, broken objects, splintered furniture, holes punched in walls, swollen faces and puffy eyes. They perceive the tension and fear of the abuser and do not feel safe.

Some of these children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and these children are eyewitnesses to this violence. 

Children are particularly vulnerable as both victims of and witnesses to domestic violence, sexual abuse and assault. Hence the need to intervene and provide services. 

The rate of child abuse or serious neglect in a home where domestic violence is prevalent is 1,500% higher than the national average.

Children impacted by domestic violence stand a greater chance of experiencing neglect, and more than half are physically abused themselves.

Directly or indirectly witnessing the abuse can significantly inhibit children’s physical, cognitive, psychological and social development. Moreover, children are often caught in the crossfire. Youth frequently believe that they have somehow caused the violence, that if they were good enough, it would not have happened or that they could have stopped or prevented the abuse.

Common effects of domestic violence on children

Physical Abuse and Neglect: In addition to an increased likelihood of child abuse and neglect, children may be hurt while trying to protect their mother or they may get caught in the middle.

Physical Ailments: Children may suffer from stress-related physical ailments such as headaches, rashes, ulcers and autoimmune disorders.

Aggression & Difficulty Interacting with Peers: Some children mimic the aggression and violence they have experienced at home by trying it out on their peers. Other children may become socially withdrawn as a means of keeping themselves safe.

Common Behaviors: Children may suffer from a loss of appetite, nightmares, stranger anxiety, temper tantrums and bed wetting. Often these children develop learning delays and speech or hearing problems.

Common characteristics of children from violent families

The following are common characteristics and behaviors to which children from violent families are prone:

Withdrawn/apathetic behavior, childhood depression, unsocial, passive, feelings of powerlessness, moody, overly controlled, poor self-concept

Aggressive/violent behavior: anger, open rage, low frustration tolerance, poorly socialized, difficult to control, low self-esteem

Shame and humiliation in belonging to a deviant family

Feelings of guilt and responsibility for family violence

Stigma: feelings of being different

Physical fears

Fear of intimacy: distrustful, armored, vigilant

Distrustful of males (males and females)

Identification with aggressor (mostly males)

Identification with victim (mostly females)

Confused values: physical force is viewed as a legitimate means of control (particularly control of women by men); “Might is right.” “Nice guys finish last.”

Conflicting and ambivalent feelings and loyalties toward parents: feelings of love/hate for both parents; anger, pity and contempt for the person abused; anger, fear and respect for abusive person

Parental child: precocious mothering, role reversal

Physical problems and complaints

Learning problems

Sexual behavior seen as an expression of power and anger rather than of love and tenderness

What To Do

Raising Awareness to salvage domestic violence and the ability of well meaning organizations to help the homeless children.

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