Early Childhood Education Journal

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 119–125 | Cite as

Developmental Status and Social–Emotional Functioning of Young Children Experiencing Homelessness

  • Mary E. Haskett
  • Jenna Montgomery Armstrong
  • Jennifer Tisdale


The developmental status and social–emotional functioning of young children who are homeless has received inadequate attention in spite of high rates of homelessness among families with young children and the potentially negative impact of homelessness and associated stressors on children’s well-being. The aim of this study was to gain understanding of homeless children’s social–emotional adjustment and their functioning in language, motor, and cognitive skills. We also examined gender and age differences in those areas of development. The sample included 328 children residing with their parents in one of 11 emergency shelter or transitional housing programs for families who were experiencing homelessness in a central North Carolina county. Child case managers administered the Brigance Early Childhood Screen II and the Ages and Stages Questionnaire: Socioemotional form in the shelter setting. Findings indicated variability in competence among the children, with some children performing above average on the developmental screening and demonstrating few social–emotional problems. However, developmental scores for overall functioning of the sample were significantly below the norming group, with particularly low functioning in language and communication skills. Parents of 24.8 % of the children had substantial concerns about their children’s mental health status. Although there are individual differences in adjustment of children experiencing homelessness, results support wide-scale screening and access to early intervention for these vulnerable children. Future investigations could be directed to identifying factors associated with resilience among children without homes.


Child development Homelessness Developmental screening 



We acknowledge Jason Lake and Emma Pope who administered the screening tools and generated the data used in this study. We thank Edward Matthews, Alexis Metz, and Thompson Teagle for their assistance with data entry and management. The CATCH Project is funded by The Salvation Army (http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/), Wake County Smart Start (http://www.wakesmartstart.org/), and the John Rex Endowment (http://www.rexendowment.org/).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary E. Haskett
    • 1
  • Jenna Montgomery Armstrong
    • 1
  • Jennifer Tisdale
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  2. 2.Community Action Targeting Children who are Homeless (CATCH)The Salvation ArmyRaleighUSA

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