Researchers have increased their attention on the types of stress related issues that children in poverty experience and on understanding its impact on mental and physical health, along with school achievement. Homelessness of families has received attention due to the concern of children being without homes [s1] and because a large number of children are at risk of this experience (Graham-Bermann & Ramirez, 2003). The purpose of this research study is to explore how parents perceive the effects of homelessness on the mental health and behavior of their children[s2] .
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
Introduction to the Study
Greater and greater numbers of children have become subject to the risks of homeless situations. (Graham-Bermann & Ramirez, 2003). The prevalence of homeless children is seen in the findings of recent research which indicates that a large number of school age children and youth can become homeless over the course of a year in the United States (Graham-Bermann & Ramirez, 2003). Furthermore, the changes in the welfare reform have raised the chances of increased financial challenges (Bassur & Rosenburg, 1999). These factors also increase homelessness rates among the general population. As more and more financial challenges are created, more and more individuals are unable to cope and more and more families, most with school age students or youth, become homeless.
A child can derive the greatest amount of stress in his or her life from his or her homeless situation. The way this stress affects different children, however, varies. Research (Arnstein, 2004) conducted on different life events such as divorce, hospitalization, and the birth of a sibling, suggests that boys appear more vulnerable to effects of stress than girls. The experience of becoming homeless is a far more drastic life event than those mentioned and as such will most likely affect boys and girls differently in the way that the previously stated life events do. Older youth may also be more affected by homelessness than younger children as a result of their more advanced cognitive development and greater awareness of life circumstances (Gerwirtzman & Fodor, 1987). Similarly, older homeless children and adolescents are more likely to be involved with peers and thereby risk peer rejection due to their housing status (Gerwirtzman & Fodor, 1987). Hart-Shegos (1999), however, posits an opposing view that younger children may be more susceptible to the stresses of homelessness because they have developmental delays which have impacts on their future behavioral and emotional states. Most homeless young children are also separated from their families which cause long-term negative effects that cause far graver stressors than those experienced by older homeless children. (Hart-Shegos, 1999)
Homelessness is clearly a rapidly increasing problem faced by children. The negative and stressful impacts it has on both younger and older children emphasize the need to address this issue. Children suffer greatly from the experience of homelessness and the extent to which this occurs needs to be investigated in order for effective interventions to be developed.
Background of the Problem
Homelessness is a fast-growing phenomenon. The risk of experiencing homelessness has increased in children through time. An alarming finding of many different organizations is that families with children constitute the homeless subgroup that shows the greatest rate of increase in numbers. (Moroz & Segal, 1990) “A status report that was done by the US Conference of Mayors (1989) estimated that 36% of all the nations homeless were families, and over half of those families had children” (Bassur & Rosenburg, 1999, p. 258). In 1996, roughly 400,000 families with an estimated 900,000 children were reported to be homeless. (Burt, Aron, Douglas, Valente, Lee, & Iwen, 1999)
Adverse childhood events such as homelessness are risk factors to future experience of homelessness. (Herman, Susser, Struening, & Link, 1997) It may well be that homelessness when experienced during childhood has a greater probability of reoccurring upon onset of adulthood. Thus homelessness rates tend to increase over time. Other risk factors identified and linked to homelessness include structural factors such as changes in the labor market, lack of available low-cost housing, and financial cuts in income assistance programs. The state of the labor market, low-cost housing and financial help programs have worsened throughout the years and as a result, homelessness has increased. (Herman et al., 1997)
Although families with children, in general, have been noted to increasingly experience homelessness, every family’s experience of being homeless is different. The said experience depends on the causes of the homelessness as well as the local, state, and federal services available to the family. “Generalizations about children and families who are homeless will be inaccurate and misleading unless the varied experiences of homeless children and families are taken into account” (Averitt, 2003, p. 12). This shows that previous studies have already recognized the need to focus on more specific aspects and variables affecting homeless families with children. These families must be differentiated from one another and effectively categorized into classifications in order for accurate generalizations and interventions can be made.
Over the years the most data available on homeless families consisted of demographics, with exception of a small number of published studies that focused on physical health, mental health, and education of homeless children (Arnstein, 2004). The published studies focusing on the impacts of homelessness on children have provided data to support the need to study the said phenomenon. “Homeless children are confronted with abject poverty and experience a constellation of risks that have a devastating impact on their well-being” (Averitt, 2003, p. 22). Homelessness studies strongly suggest that there are many problems associated with children who do not have a home (Biswas-Diener & Diener, 2006).Some of the psychological problems that have been identified most often among children who are homeless are anxiety, depression, and behavior problems (Averitt, 2003). Past studies also show ways by which these negative impacts can be lessened. The quantity and quality of children’s social support, for example, could moderate the potential impact of homelessness and residential instability for children, as has been found in prior research involving life stress and social support (Arnstein, 2004).
Statement of the Problem
The present research tackles the gap in the research literature resulting in insufficient knowledge regarding the effects of homelessness on the mental health and behavior of children. The research problem delves into what the impacts of homelessness are on children, and how these impacts come into play in a child’s life. The research problem basically focuses on how parents view these mental health and behavioral effects in their children’s lives. The parents’ perception is important because they have first-hand experience of the child’s development.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this research study is to understand how parents perceive the effects of homelessness on the mental health and behavior of their children. The study hopes to determine the differences in the effects of homelessness with regards to the gender of the children and their age group. Another particular objective is to give professionals a better understanding of the mental and behavioral risks faced by homeless school age children. A final objective is to contribute to the development of intervention strategies and modules for homeless children.
Research on homeless and how it affects the mental health and behavior of children is needed because the literature links homelessness among children to behavioral problems and mental health issues. (Graham-Bermann & Ramirez, 2003) Homeless children’s anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems, engendered by destructive psychological environments have been shown to interfere with their capacity to learn (Averitt, 2003). Homeless children and their families need to have access to safe, clean shelters or transitional housing while they are without homes. By minimizing the disruptions in school and services, homeless children may be able to adapt better to the situation (Bassuk, 2004). The research findings from this proposed study may indicate that need for programs that are family-oriented. These programs may consider homeless families’ emotional status as well as traumatic life stressors and events that children may have experienced. The public assistance cut backs in federal and state programs that aid poor families, all in the name of the welfare reform, raise the threat of increased economic stress on many families and heighten vulnerability to homelessness (Bonnie, 1999). Additionally, it may be found that a broad array of stressors both acute and chronic strains to poor children, whether homeless or not, can affect the child’s adjustment and overall well-being.
Economic assistance to families is imperative if children are to be kept from extreme poverty and concomitant stressors. Program interventions and approaches are needed to help families cope with short and long-term effects of being homeless. The interventions should be family-oriented and should strengthen family as well as community ties. When children reside in shelters, especially for moderate periods of time, providers should be aware of the potential for increased internalizing symptoms and should be trained to be aware of the potential for increased internalizing symptoms. Providers should also be trained to be aware screen children and to refer them for more complete assessments and possible treatment (Bonnie, 1999).
Homelessness is associated with a range of acute and chronic stressors and often represents the extreme end of a continuum of hardship and poverty. Yet it is but one of many events to which children living in poverty are increasing being subjected (Rappaport & Flanigain, 2002). As professionals and a society there should be a concerned not only for the well-being of homeless children but for the similarly poor housed children as well.
Homelessness in general is a devastating experience for any family. Every aspect of the family life is disrupted. It damages physical and emotional health of family members, interferes with children’s education and development, and results in family members separation (Bassuk, 2004). Families with children are one of the fastest growing groups of the homeless population. Main causes of homelessness are poverty and lack of affordable housing (Krueger, 2000).
School is crucial for homeless children because it instills a sense of stability that they otherwise lack. Remedial education services may be needed for homeless children to address academic deficits and disruptions associated with homelessness and numerous school transfers (Rafferty & Shinn, 2000). In recent Hawaii-based studies, emphasis was on similarities rather than on contrasts and differences between children who are homeless and children who are poor but housed, in terms of development and psychological problems (AHHA, 2006).
Social and Community Service is the researcher’s specialization at Capella University in the School of Human Services. The following research proposal will help the researcher become more knowledgeable of the homeless population and help identify some of the challenges that children and their families face. The researcher has worked in the social service field for over eight years, and is currently overseeing a child and abuse neglect prevention program that services families who are homeless. This proposal will bring a wealth of knowledge that can be shared with social service agencies on the island of Oahu. There is also a general lack of qualitative research on how homelessness affects the mental health and behavior of children.
The present research will center on two specific research questions in order to provide more detailed information regarding the addressed issue. These two research questions are
1. How do parents describe the effects of homelessness on their children’s mental health and behavior? and
2. How do shelter directors describe the effects of homelessness on children’s mental health and behavior?
Answers to the two questions will provide data needed to describe homeless children’s mental health and behavior. The two sources directly in contact and with the most knowledge on the state of homeless children are addressed in the two research questions and as such will provide all relevant data needed to draw the accurate conclusions and generalizations for this study.
Nature of the Study
Phenomenological research will be used to conduct the proposed study. Families who are homeless have different experiences. This means that the study will be a qualitative study. The phenomenological research strategy would be an appropriate approach because the intent of this type of research is to understand and describe an event from the point of view of the participant. “Much of the research evaluating and describing children who are homeless has reported alarming high levels of developmental delays, emotional disturbance, and psychopathology among this population” (Douglas, 1996, p.1). Phenomenological research seeks the individual’s perception and meaning of a phenomenon or experience (Mertens, 2005, p.240).
To gain a better understanding of the effects of homelessness on children’s’ mental health and behavior, parents and shelter directors will be surveyed regarding their perceptions of such effects. Conducting interviews with parents and shelter directors will also help to get a greater understanding of the different experiences that homeless families and children face. Face-to-face interviews will be held over three to four sessions with the homeless families. A nonprobability (nonrandom) convenience sample will be utilized. A life event questionnaire will be used to ask parents whether their children experienced any stressors such as death of a friend, witnessing any kind of violence, seeing their parent arrested or jailed, and witnessing any kind of serious illness. A questionnaire will also be developed to gather background and characteristics of the parents. A questionnaire will also be developed to ask about other prominent adults in the children’s lives. Interview questions will be developed with sensitivity to culture, particularly for Micronesian, Filipino, and Spanish families. The shelter director will be asked a series of questions regarding the child and what he or she may have observed while the family has been part of their program.
Significance of Study
The prevalence of homelessness and its negative effects on children show the significance of results taken from conducting this study. Homeless children have been noted to be subject to constant changes which cause stress and which lead to a higher occurrence of mental disorders in their population. These disorders become evident in the child’s behavior and even though a large percent of homeless children are victims to these phenomena, they greatly go undiagnosed and untreated. (Hart-Shegos, 1999) These facts indicate that the greatest help the study will give will be to the homeless children who suffer from mental and behavioral disorders as a result of their homelessness. However, the benefits are not limited only to these children. In fact, all homeless children as well as their families will benefit from the results of the study. Conducting a study on homelessness and its effects on children will help to increase knowledge regarding the issue and may increase the amount of effort and the quantity of resources placed into addressing the problem. The study is significant and relevant to the development of intervention strategies for families and the children who are homeless.
Definition of Terms
Homeless families. For the purpose of this study, the term homeless families is defined as men and women with children, who are without financial resources, have limited access to health care, housing or other social services, and are permanently, temporarily or periodically without homes (AHHA, 2006). The families must be homeless for at least six months.
Mental health. For this study, the term 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).
Parent. For the purpose of this study, the term parent is defined as one who begets, gives birth to, or nurtures and raises a child. (Farlex, 2007). This does not limit the term simply to the child’s biological father or mother but will also include relatives, caregivers, and individuals who nurtured and raised the child but did not necessarily give birth to him or her.
Shelter Directors. For the purpose of this study, the term shelter director is defined as someone who supervises, controls, or manages a homeless shelter (Farlex, 2007).
Assumptions and Limitations
The following research study will identify perceived relationships between homelessness and the mental health and behavior of children. Perceptions will be limited to parents and shelter directors; therefore, “Researchers have suggested that many school-age children that are living in shelters are aware of the social stigma associated with being homeless, feeling shame, and are ostracized by their peers “(Graham-Bermann & Ramirez, 2003, p. 6). The key assumption of basic needs and adaptation theory is that individuals who have their basic physical needs met may have an increase in their psychological health. The stress and coping paradigm theory, on the other hand, assumes that “school-aged children and adolescents are capable of using more cognitive coping due to the increase in complexity of their cognitive abilities” (Menke, 2000).
The procedure employed in the present study is also founded on an assumption. The methodological assumption is that a qualitative phenomenological research design will provide better understanding of homelessness, which in this case concerns homelessness and how it affects the mental health and behavior of children. Because of the very nature of a qualitative phenomenological discussed, as discussed earlier in this chapter, it is assumed that it would be a more appropriate research method for the study as opposed to quantitative or mixed methods.
Some limitations that of the research study include the fact that individuals may not be willing to take part of the research study. Also, due to the nature of data collection, participants may doubt the confidentiality of their answers, and therefore, may not answer truthfully (Greenstein, 2006). This would cause a decrease in the reliability of the interview and would yield bad data. The interviewer may also have a hard time finding and identifying reliable and competent participants. Because the sample population will involve homeless individuals, it must be taken into account that some of them may also be subject to mental and behavior disorders.
Face-to-Face interviews can also be costly and time-consuming when involving many people. Only a limited number of interviews can be conducted with the parents and their children because of their nomadic lifestyle. Further, probable compulsory breach of participant confidentiality may occur if there are court orders to release information. It is then the legal responsibility of the researcher to disclose information in the consent form (NCFH, 2006). A final limitation is that the study will rely only on interviews. Because of the nature of interviews, only a few participants can be included thus lowering external validity. The reliability of the answers will also be circumspect due to the characteristics of the sample population.
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
Introduction to the Literature Review
The purpose of this research study is to understand how parents perceive the effects of homelessness on the mental health and behavior of their children. In addition to the theoretical framework, the following three themes will be addressed in this literature review: (a) the review of past research studies on homeless children and their families; (b) research studies that have explored the relationship between homelessness and the mental health and behavior of children; and (c) recent research studies that have been conducted on homeless children, mental health, and behavior.
Research that has been conducted on the impact of homelessness on children indicates that homeless children may be confronted with serious threats to their wellbeing (Douglas, 1996). Homeless children may miss weeks of school and fall behind frequently. Sometimes their behavior is misunderstood and may be caused by trauma (Arnstein, 2004[s3] ).
According to Biswas-Diener et al. (2006) “Maslows basic needs and adaptation theory[s4] assumed that basic physical needs such as food, water and shelter, must be satisfied before a person can attain higher order psychological fulfillment” (Maslow, 1954 as cited in Biswas-Diener & Diener, 2006, p.187). The reasoning suggest that as homeless people gain better access to food and shelter there ought to be a corresponding increase in their psychological health. The adaptation theory may also be helpful in understanding the relation between homelessness and subjective well-being. “Research on adaptation theory suggests that diminished responsiveness to[s5] repeated stimuli allows people to adjust life circumstances including adverse circumstances” (Sliver, 1982 as cited in Biswas-Diener and Diener, 2006, p.187). According to Diener and Diener (2006) “research that has been conducted on adaptation theory suggest that diminished responsiveness to repeated stimuli allows people to adjust to life circumstances, including adverse circumstances” (p. 187).
According to Menke (2000) Lazarus and Folkmans 1984 stress and coping paradigm has been used by many researchers to study school age children (p. 692). “In comparing young children, school-aged children and adolescents it was found that all three age groups are capable of using more cognitive coping strategies due to the increase in complexity of their cognitive abilities “(Berk, 1997 as cited in Menke, 2000, p. 639). The three major paradigm concepts are cognitive appraisal, stress, and coping. “ Stress is conceptualized as a dynamic, mutually reciprocal, bidirectional process between and individual and the environment that is appraised by the individual as taxing or exceeding one’s resources and appraised by the individual as taxing or exceeding one’s resources and endangering one’s well being” (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984, as cited in Menke, 2000 p.693).
“Cognitive appraisal is used to ascertain the meaning one assigns to the experience as being irrelevant, benign-positive or stressful. If stressful, the event is appraised as a challenge, a threat, a harm, a loss or a combination of these. Coping affects the outcome of stress, and both change over time. Coping involves a wide range of cognitive and behavioral strategies that both have emotional regulation and problem solving functions” (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984, as cited in Menke, 2000 p.693).
As stated previously, adaptation theory assumes that basic physical needs must be met before a person can attain higher order psychological fulfillment. This theory may be applicable to children who are homeless in that they are unable to adjust to their life circumstances; therefore causing some changes in their mental health and behavior. The stress and coping paradigm theory assumes that an individual environment can be affected and cause danger to a persons well being, as well as, their cognitive abilities. This theory may be applicable to children who are homeless in that there is a change in one’s cognitive ability, stress level, and coping strategy.
There is a possibility to advance the proposed theories through the conduct of the proposed study. The findings of the proposed study have the potential to illustrate how homelessness affects the mental health and behavior of children.
Critical Theoretical/Conceptual Debates[s6]
While reviewing literature the researcher was unable to identify any conceptual debates pertaining to adaptation theory or stress and coping paradigm. As the researcher continues to review literature on the research topic the researcher hopes to find information that identifies with the following section of the research proposal.
Bridging the Gaps or Resolving the Controversies
The proposed research study will attempt to understand how parents perceive homelessness and how it affects the mental health and behavior of children. This research proposal may [s7] indicate that there is a further need for programs that are family-oriented.
The family-oriented programs may consider homeless children’s emotional status as well as the traumatic life stressors and events that children may have experienced. The public assistance cut backs in federal and state programs that aid poor families, all in the name of the welfare reform, raise the threat of increased economic stress on many single mothers and heighten the vulnerability to families becoming homeless (Bonnie, 1999).
Adequate economic assistance to families in the times of need is imperative if children are to avoid extreme poverty and its concomitant stressors. Program interventions and approaches are needed to help mothers remain stably and cope with short and long-term effects of being homeless. The interventions should be family-oriented and strengthen family as well as community ties. When children reside in shelters, especially for moderate periods of time, providers should be aware of the potential for increased internalizing symptoms and should be trained to be aware of the potential for increased internalizing symptoms. Providers should also be trained to be aware screen children and to refer them for more complete assessments and possible treatment (Bonnie, 1999).
Being homeless is associated with a range of acute and chronic stressors and often represents the extreme end of a continuum of hardship and poverty. Yet it is but one of many events to which children living in poverty are increasing being subjected (Rappaport & Flanigain, 2002). As professionals and a society there should be a concerned not only for the well-being of homeless children but for the similarly poor housed children as well.
School is very crucial for homeless children because it may instill a sense of stability that they otherwise lack. The disruptions that are associated with homelessness and the numerous of school transfers, remedial education services may be needed for homeless children to address academic deficits (Rafferty & Shinn, 2000). In recent studies that have been conducted in Hawaii there have been emphasizes on similarities, rather than contrasting the differences between children who are homeless and children who are poor but housed, in relation to the measuring the development and psychological problems (AHHA, 2006). [s8]
Review of the Critical Literature
Past Research Studies
It has been estimated nation wide that 100,000 children may be homeless with their parents on any given night (Institute of Medicine, 2000). [s9] In 1989, there were only two published studies of mental health problems among homeless children and mothers (Kauffman, 1993). First, Whitman et al. (1990) observed impaired cognitive ability and severe language disabilities among 88 children who were living in shelter structured like a dormitory for homeless families in St. Louis, Missouri (p.518). In this quantitative study, 35% of those children scored at or below the borderline/slower range on the Slosson Intelligence Test (Whitman et al., 1990). In the second study,
Children who are living in extreme poverty experience substandard living conditions, their residential transitions are abrupt, and they face issues with continuing school (Bassuk, 2004). Homeless children are also raised by single parents with limited education and inadequate social and economic support, which can exacerbates the stress within the family (Bonnie, 1999). A quantitative cross-sectional study that was conducted by Neiman (1988) found that approximately half of homeless children that live in shelters suffer from at least one developmental delay or require some type of psychiatric evaluation for depression or anxiety (p. 6).
This theme and literature reviewed illustrate how past research has demonstrated the presence of effects of homelessness on children’s mental health and behavior. The literature further illustrates that there is a need for more research on this particular topic[s10] .
The Relationship among Homelessness, Mental Health, and Children[s11]
There are many homeless children who suffer from acute or chronic physical illnesses that have been untreated and who do not have regular health care practitioners (Acker & Dreyer, 2003). Bassur et al. (1999) longitudinal study used the Denver Developmental Test (DDST) to asses the development of 79 children ages 5 or younger, living in family shelters in Massachusetts. Bassur et al. found that 36% of children demonstrated delays in their language, 33% were unable to complete the personal and social developmental tasks that were given to them, and other percentage go children lacked gross and fine motor skills (p. 259).
Wood et al. (1990) conducted a quantitative study on developmental lags using a sample of preschoolers in Los Angeles. Fifteen percent manifested at least one delay and 9% had at least two or more. The most common delay was language, then fine motor, gross motor coordination, and personal social development (Wood et al., 1990, p.105). When the nutritional needs of young children are not met their growth is affected, their physical heath deteriorates, their mental health is affected adversely, and their behavior problems increase, their ability to concentrate is compromised and academically their performance suffers (Grant, 2003).
Homeless children are at risk of developing a great deal of emotional and behavior problems (Cohen & Schwab-Stone, 1990). Homeless children also may have problems with their physical health and educational achievement. Risks are higher for homeless children whose mother’s have a history of mental illness. Exposures to more stressful life events often happen to children who are homeless. The severity of the stressors, such as witnessing family violence makes children more vulnerable to emotional and behavioral problems (Cohen & Schwab-Stone, 1990).
The extreme event of homelessness is one of the many acute stressors that children growing up in poverty experience (Kauffman, 1993). Exposure to parental substance abuse, death of a friend, and imprisonment of a parent are not uncommon life events for low-income children. In addition, children that live in poverty are more prone to experience a very high-level of abuse, along with foster care placement. Residential instability is also common among poor children, even children who have never been homeless (Kauffman, 1993).
This theme and related literature illustrate that there is connection between homeless children, mental health, and the behavior of children. The studies utilized sound gathering procedures that provided results which can be generalized to the relative population.
Current Research [s12]
Homeless children’s anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems engendered by destructive psychological environments interfere with one’s capacity to learn (Averitt, 2003). Homeless children and their families need to have access to safe, clean shelters or transitional housing while they are without homes. By minimizing the disruptions in school and services, homeless children may be able to adapt better to the situation (Bassuk, 2004). According to Miller et al. (2001) children who are homeless still need to have another potential adult who knows a child well and early intervention programs to help prevent the onset of developmental delays. By maintaining the stability for children and offering to help cope with the trauma of becoming homeless, schools can play a major role in tertiary prevention and in preventing residual damage from homelessness (Kidd & Scrimenti, 2004). Research studies that have been conducted throughout the years have shown that there is some type of link between homelessness and the mental health and behavior children. Furthermore, most reports and studies on homeless children have failed to consider the varied experiences that homeless children may have (Kidd & Scrimenti, 2004). There appears to be a lack of qualitative research that has been conducted on how homelessness affects the mental health and behavior of children. A research study such as the proposed may warrant different results.
Evaluation of Viable Research Designs
There are many research designs that would [s13] be appropriate for the proposed study. Families who are homeless have different experiences. To get a better understanding of how parents perceive the effects of homelessness on their children’s’ mental health and behavior, the phenomenological research strategy is appropriate. The intent of this type of research is to understand and describe an event from the point of view of the participant. . [s14] “Much of the research evaluating and describing children who are homeless has reported alarming high levels of developmental delays, emotional disturbance, and psychopathology among this population” (Douglas, 1996, p.1). Phenomenological research seeks the individual’s perception and meaning of a phenomenon or experience (Mertens, 2005, p.240). According to Creswell (2003) in phenomenological research the researcher identifies the essence of human experiences concerning the phenomenon as described by the participants in the study. Conducting interviews will help get a greater understanding of the different experiences that homeless families and children face.
A research strategy that may also be appropriate for the proposed research study is quantitative correlational study. “The advantage of a correlational study is that several variables can be included in one study” (Mertens, 2005, p.157). “Correlational designs can establish the existence of relationships between the observed variables and determine the direction of the relationship (Bordens & Abbott, 2005, p. 119). The correlational study will help analyze children’s mental health and behavior problems and its relations to homelessness.
An approach that is not as well known as qualitative and quantitative is known as the mixed methods approach. This strategy involves collecting and analyzing both forms of data in a single study (Creswell, 2003). This method would be beneficial to the proposed study because this would allow the researcher the opportunity to gather data concerning the lived reality of the participant while also providing numerical data, as well as, compare and contrast homeless families to families who are similar but not homeless.
The purpose of this research study is to understand how parents perceive the effects of homelessness on the mental health and behavior of their children. Therefore a phenomenological research design has been chosen. Due to nature of the research study, all participants will be kept anonymous and given detailed information on the research study as well as consent forms[s15] .
Chapter 2 Summary
In this chapter, an explanation of the purpose of the proposed study has been presented. Additionally, brief introductions of adaptation and coping paradigm theories were presented. Critical theoretical and conceptual debates were address. And information on the different gaps and controversies were presented[s16] .
CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY
The purpose of the proposed Phenomenological qualitative research study is to understand how parents perceive how homelessness affects the mental health and behavior of children. Research on this particular topic may give professionals a better understanding of homeless school age children and the risk of mental health and behavior problems. Research on this topic may also help with developing appropriate intervention strategies and modules.
Face to face interviews will be conducted to help understand how parents perceive how homelessness affects the mental health and behavior of children. Phenomenological research seeks the individual’s perception and meaning of a phenomenon or experience (Mertens, 2005, p.240).
The researcher believes that in order to get a better understanding of how homelessness may affect a child’s behavior and mental health, it is important to understand the lived experiences. According to Creswell (2003)” understanding the lived experiences marks phenomenology as philosophy as well as a method” (p.15). The epistemological assumption is that better services maybe provided for homeless children as professionals get a better understanding of their experiences. According to Crotty (2003) “There is no objective truth waiting for us to discover it. Truth, or meaning comes into existence in and out of our engagement with the realities in our world” (p.8).
The ontological assumption is homeless families with children exist all over the world. Children’s behavior and mental health can be affected. According to Crotty (2003 ) the world is there regardless of whether human beings are conscious of it” (p.10) The methodological assumption is that a qualitative phenomenological research design will provide better understanding of the phenomenon, which in this case concerns homelessness and how it affects the mental health and behavior of children.
Research Design Guide or Model
The following research proposal will follow Patton’s (1990) research guide. According to Patton (1990) a phenomenological study is one that focuses on descriptions of what people experience and how it is that they experience what they experience. The assumption is that there is an essence or essences to the shared experience. The experiences of the different people bracket, analyzed, and compared to the identity of the essences of the phenomenon (Patton, 1990).” One can employ a general phenomenological perspective to elucidate the importance of using methods that capture people’s experience of the world without conducting a phenomenological study that focuses on the essence of shared experience” (Patton, 1990, p.71).
The researcher will first look into the individual point of view of the research subject to get the realization of subject consciousness perceived in the objects, to get to understand human phenomena as lived and experienced. Patton (1990, p.71) stated the purpose of interviewing specifically as “to find out what is in and on someone else’s mind”, and that is exactly what the
target of the phenomenological study focuses on.
Research Design Strategy
How do parents describe the effects of homelessness on their children’s mental health and behavior? How do shelter directors describe the effects of homelessness on children’s mental health and behavior? In order to answer these questions for this research proposal, a qualitative phenomenological research study will be conducted. The phenomenological research study will involve face-to-face semistandardized interviews.
This type of interview involves the implementation of a number of predetermined questions and special topics. Questions used in a semistandarized interview can reflect an awareness that individuals understand the world in varying ways. Researchers, thus, approach the world from the subject’s perspective (Berg, 2007, p. 95). To discover the essence or essences the researcher will attempt to ask questions that will help get a better understanding of the phenomenon.
The sample for the proposed study will be drawn from those participants who are currently living a homeless shelter and whom have been homeless for at least six months. A non probability (nonrandom) convenience sample will be utilized. According to Mertens (2005) “convenience sampling means that the persons participating in the study were chosen because they were readily available” (p. 322). The rationale for using the proposed method is that due to the nature of the research study and sample population there maybe several limitations. One limitation is that families move in and out of homeless shelters on a daily basis; therefore it be would convent for the researcher to recruit those families who are currently present. A sample of six homeless families with children ages 6 – 12 and will be recruited. The shelter directors will also be recruited. The researcher will recruit the sample from the local transitional shelters on the Waianae Coast on the island of Oahu.
In this study the researcher will be the instrument. Since this is a qualitative phenomenological study, no statistical analysis will be included. The results of the study will be documented in narrative form. Data about the participants will be gathered throughout the face-to-face interviews. The researcher will be the data collection instrument. A semi-structured interview with the participant will be conducted. The following questions will be asked:
How has your child’s behavior changed since you have become homeless?
Does you child express sadness because of the homeless? In what way?
Overall how would you describe your child’s mood since you became homeless?
What are some of things that child use to do before you were homeless, that their not doing anymore in terms of behavior?
Has anyone from school notice a difference in your child’s mood? If so what have they described?
Have you notice changes in your child’s sleeping and eating habits? If so what are they?
As the researcher continues to develop the proposal more questions will be added to the list above.
Data Collection Procedures
Face-to-face interviews will be held over three to four sessions with the homeless families. Information on the mothers demographic characteristics, adult and childhood factors that may influence consequences and risk of homelessness will be gathered. Information about the children’s background, mental health and behavior will also be gathered. Interview questions will be developed with sensitivity to cultural issues, particularly for Micronesian, Filipino, and Spanish families. Interviews of mothers and the observation of children will be conducted in the appropriate language when the respondent sole or prefers the translation. Conducting personal interviews can tend to get a high response rate. The presence of the interviewer allows for the use of open-ended questions. The interviewer may skip and clarify questions that the respondents may find difficult (Greenstein, 2006). The shelter director will be asked a series of questions in regard to the child and what he or she may have observed while the family has been part of their program.
Field Testing/Pilot Testing
A pilot test will be conducted with 2 to 3 homeless families with children. The researcher will explain the purpose of the pilot test and follow all the required procedures. The format for the interview questions will be narrowed down to only 5 to 10 questions. “Kelly et al, (1994) as cited in Mertens (2005) asked pilot participants to tell them what they think the questions means and to suggest ways of rewriting them if they are unclear or to complex” (p.183). The researcher will use this approach in order to reviewed feedback from the participants. When the data are collected from the participants the researcher will read the comments, check the responses, look for blanks, do a brief analysis, and add and change or delete any questions as needed (Mertens, 2005).
Data Analysis Procedures
Merten’s (2005) “sequence the steps” for qualitative data analysis will be applied. Codes will be given to the first set of field notes drawn from the interview. Personal reflections will be noted. Materials will be sorted through to help identify similar phrases, patterns or relationships between information. Any information that has been identified will be taken out in the next wave of data collection. Small generalizations that cover the consistencies will be discerned in the database. The generalizations will be examined in light of a formalized body of knowledge in the form of constructs or theories. The researcher will then continue the process of data collection and analysis until the regularities that were mentioned previously emerged.
Limitations of Methodology
Some limitations that may occur while conducting the research study are participants may be willing to take part of the research study; however due to the nature of data collection participants may get distracted due to interviewer’s note-taking. Participants may doubt the confidentiality of their answers, and may not answer truthfully (Greenstein, 2006).
Face-to-Face interviews can become costly and be very time consuming when interviewing many people. It is important to remember when conducting the research study that those families that may be living in the homeless shelter can relocate at any given time. Therefore, they may be a limited number of interviews with the mothers and their children. Further, a limitation that could happen is compulsory breach of participant confidentially if there are court orders to release the information. It is the legal responsibility of the researchers in these cases the information will be disclosed in the consent form (NCFH, 2006).
According to Merten’s (2005) “in qualitative research the credibility tests asks if there is a correspondence between the way the respondents actually perceive social constructs and the way the way researchers portrays their viewpoints “ (p. 254). To help establish internal validity the researcher will have substantial engagement and persistent observation. The researcher will also use triangulation to establish internal validity. The researcher will collect data from multiple sources.
“External validity means the degree to which you can generalize the results to other situations. In qualitative research the researcher’s responsibility is to provide sufficient detail to enable the reader to make such a judgement” (Merten, 2005, p. 256). To help establish external validity the researcher will provide an in-depth description of the community in which the homeless shelter is located. As well as other detailed information.
The researcher expects to get a greater understanding of how parents perceive how homelessness affects the mental health and behavior of their children. The researcher expects to find some environmental factors which may influence the how children’s mental health and behavior may change. The researcher also expects to find some similarity or common issues and concerns amongst all the participants. The researcher hopes to find some information that can be beneficial to professionals throughout the state of Hawaii.
Researcher’s Position Statement
The researcher has worked in social service field for many years. For the past two in half years the researcher has worked with children and their families. Across the state of Hawaii a lot of the families that the researchers agency services are homeless. The researcher is interested in how homelessness affects the mental health and behavior of children.
Protection from Harm
The participant’s will be asked to conduct an interview, or series of interviews, with the researcher concerning the mental health and behavior of their children since they became homeless. The participant will have minimal risk of any harm by conducting an interview with the researcher, unless the participant makes an informed and voluntary decision to confess to child abuse and neglect.
Capella University provides a template for the informed consent form, which will serve as a guide for this proposal. The researcher will personally present the informed consent form to the participant. The researcher will offer some type of award or incentive to the participants.
Right to Privacy and Confidentiality
The name of the participants and the names of their children will not be included anywhere in the proposed dissertation. Each interview that is conducted in this proposed study will be coded. The information will be maintained in a separate, non-computerized file. All information related to this proposal will be maintained in a safe place for at least seven years before it will be destroyed.
Honesty with Professional Colleagues
The researcher will be completely honest with professional colleagues, including the researcher’s mentor and dissertation committee. The researcher will disclose all relevant information about this proposed study. The researcher will attempt to avoid injecting personal bias into the interpretation of data.
Homelessness is associated with a large range of acute and chronic stressors and can often represent the extreme end of a continuum of hardship and poverty (Graham-Bermann & Ramirez, 2003). When children reside in homeless shelter for moderate periods of time, providers should be aware of the potential for an increase in internalizing symptoms. Providers should be trained to screen children and to refer them to other professionals for more complete assessments and possible treatment (Bassur & Rosenburg, 1999).
An entire generation of children is faced with unacceptable risks that jeopardize their future potential. In the long run, the monetary costs of neglecting children’s needs are like to substantially exceed the costs of combating poverty and homelessness (Rafferty & Shinn, 2000). It is important to understand, however; that although children are often resilient to major stress, they are less resilient to multiple stresses. Furthermore, additional increases in homelessness can be predicted because resources available to the homeless and the poor continue to be undercut by inflation. Increases in social welfare programs and programs such as AFDC do not keep up with inflation and have not kept up with inflation for at least a decade (Rutter, 2001).
As a society we as people should be concerned not only for the well-being of homeless children but for those individual who maybe at risk of becoming homeless, all of whom are growing up in this country under increasingly harsh and unfavorable circumstances (Graham-Bermann & Ramirez, 2003, p. 4).
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[s1]This is not very clear—because it is repetitive, a point isn’t being made.
[s2]More is needed here. For example, a statement about theories and methods.
[s3]Paragraph is underdeveloped. Here you should state which theories will be reviewed to establish the framework.
[s4]In this section, it is important for you to cite “seminal” research. For example, you need to go back and actually read/reference Maslow instead of depending on someone else’s review of Maslow’s works.
[s5]This paragraph, along with the entire next page contains too many direct quotes. You must be able to demonstrate your understanding of what your read, and to synthesize, integrate and paraphrase it.
[s6]Consider such debates in the context of explaining homelessness. It seems to me that Maslow doesn’t necessarily explain the causes of homelessness—Instead Maslow’s theory explains the effects of homeless. If a child’s most basic needs are not met, then he/she cannot accomplish goals further up the hierarchy.
[s7]This language doesn’t work for the proposal. Instead you need to be more deliberate and definitive. If the research reviewed indicates a need for more family-oriented programs, then YOUR RESEARCH will support this point and seek to provide specific strategies for doing so because will ask parents and shelter directors—2 groups who should have some very specific and well-informed ideas.
[s8]Unclear about how this is related to the topic heading of this section
[s9]This is most appropriate to chapter 1, introduction
[s10]Okay, since 1989, what has happened to the research studies on this topic. Have they increased, decreased, etc.
[s11]Subheadings should be incorporated into this section to better guide the topics of the research studies you are presenting.
[s12]Different “current” from “past research.” What year range defines current? It seems you are trying to provide a statement of the knowledge base. Here would be a rational place to discuss the gaps in the research regarding your topic.
[s13]I don’t think this is a good statement. Instead, try to prove why the approach you select is the best/most appropriate.
[s14]I think I’ve read these exact words earlier in the document.
[s15]Be specific that you only plan to interview parents, not the children, and shelter directors.
[s16]What about the literature you presented? In my opinion, your literature review needs further development. For a dissertation study, it is a bit short. In order to revise and further develop this section, I recommend reviewing pp. 61-63 of the dissertation manual. Then create a outline of topics that are important to your review. This outline should then guide the development of your literature review.