Experiencing homelessness for longer than six months can cause significant damage to a child's heal

September 3, 2018, Boston Medical Center
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Experiencing homelessness at any time during the pre- or postnatal period can negatively affect a young child's health. Researchers at Children's HealthWatch, based out of Boston Medical Center (BMC), found that children who experienced both pre- and post-natal homelessness and those who experienced homelessness for longer than six months were at highest risk of negative health outcomes. These findings, published in Pediatrics, illustrate the urgent need to intervene and rapidly house children and families experiencing homelessness to minimize the negative health outcomes.

Researchers interviewed 20,000 low-income caregivers of under four years old who visited outpatient pediatric clinics in five cities across the U.S. between 2009 and 2015. The researchers asked questions to determine if a child experienced homelessness, how long they experienced homelessness, and when in the child's life they experienced homelessness. They then conducted an assessment of the child determining their overall condition; if/how often the child was hospitalized; if a child was over or underweight; and if the child experienced any developmental delays.

More than three percent of caregivers reported experiencing prenatal homelessness, 3.7 percent reported postnatal homelessness, and 3.5 percent reported both.

The study found children who experienced homelessness for more than six months were at high risk of poor outcomes. Also at were children who experienced homelessness during both the pre- and post-natal period, showing that the earlier and longer in development a child experiences homelessness may have a larger cumulative toll of poor health and development outcomes.

"These findings back up what we already knew about how the stress of homelessness affects children's heath," said Megan Sandel, MD, MPH, pediatrician at BMC and lead investigator at Children's HealthWatch, "but this helps us determine which children are at greatest risk, and makes the argument that policymakers and providers need to intervene to change the trajectory of a child's development."

Researchers also note the toll poor health outcomes caused by homelessness can exact on health systems. Greater health care utilization, increased hospitalizations, and need for developmental interventions creates substantial family and societal health care expenses.

"As pediatricians, we should be regularly screening families for housing insecurity, including past history and future risk of homelessness," said Deborah Frank, MD, director of the GROW Clinic at BMC and senior author on the study. "Interventions that prevent homelessness for families and pregnant women can be extremely effective, and with data on the housing status of our patients, we can better advocate for more resources to drive innovations in addressing housing instability."

Explore further: Homelessness in infancy linked to poor health outcomes for children and mothers

Related Stories

Homelessness in infancy linked to poor health outcomes for children and mothers

July 30, 2018
A new study led by researchers from Children's HealthWatch, a research and policy network headquartered at Boston Medical Center (BMC), shows infants under 12 months old who experience homelessness are at-risk of poor health ...

Housing instability negatively affects the health of children and caregivers

January 22, 2018
When families don't have stable housing, their risk of struggling with poor health outcomes and material hardships, such as food insecurity, increases, according to a new study from Children's HealthWatch. Researchers surveyed ...

AMA adopts new policy on housing for homeless

August 15, 2018
(HealthDay)—The American Medical Association (AMA) calls for stable, affordable housing, without mandated therapy or service compliance, in order to improve housing stability and quality of life among individuals who are ...

Study finds teens in homeless families more likely to attempt suicide

March 20, 2018
Homelessness strikes three times more families in Minnesota than it did ten years ago. For example, the Minnesota Department of Education reports that, in Minneapolis Public Schools alone, over 1,800 children in kindergarten ...

Almost half of all people released from the prison system become homeless

May 27, 2015
According to a longitudinal study following more than 1,000 homeless Australians and those at risk of homelessness, 42 percent of people released from prison, juvenile detention or remand in the past 6 months were found to ...

Recommended for you

Newborn babies' brain responses to being touched on the face measured for the first time

November 16, 2018
A newborn baby's brain responds to being touched on the face, according to new research co-led by UCL.

Sucking your baby's pacifier may benefit their health

November 16, 2018
Many parents probably think nothing of sucking on their baby's pacifier to clean it after it falls to the ground. Turns out, doing so may benefit their child's health.

No link between 'hypoallergenic' dogs and lower risk of childhood asthma

November 15, 2018
Growing up with dogs is linked to a lower risk of asthma, especially if the dogs are female, a new study from Karolinska Institutet and Uppsala University in Sweden shows. However, the researchers found no relation between ...

Study shows changes in histone methylation patterns in nutritionally stunted children

November 13, 2018
An international team of researchers has found changes in histone methylation patterns in nutritionally stunted children. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes their ...

Your 6-month-old isn't sleeping through the night? Relax

November 12, 2018
(HealthDay)—If your 6-month-old still wakes up at 2 a.m., a new study suggests you don't lose any additional sleep worrying about it.

New exercise guidelines: Move more, sit less, start younger

November 12, 2018
Move more, sit less and get kids active as young as age 3, say new federal guidelines that stress that any amount and any type of exercise helps health.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

mpeppermint23
not rated yet Sep 03, 2018
It would be nice if the author learned how to spell and proofread their work. LOL !

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.