Childhood Abuse as a Precursor to Homelessness for Homeless Women with Severe Mental Illness

By Davies-Netzley, Sally; Hurlburt, Michael S. et al. | Violence and Victims, January 1, 1996 | Go to article overview

Childhood Abuse as a Precursor to Homelessness for Homeless Women with Severe Mental Illness


Davies-Netzley, Sally, Hurlburt, Michael S., Hough, Richard L., Violence and Victims


Previous studies of childhood abuse levels among homeless women have typically focused either on single homeless women or female heads of families; almost none have focused specifically on homeless women with severe mental illness. This study explores rates of childhood physical and sexual abuse among 120 homeless women with severe mental illness. Correlates of experiencing childhood abuse are considered, including mental health outcomes and when women first become homeless. The prevalence of childhood abuse in this sample of women was substantially higher than among homeless women in general. The experience of childhood abuse was related to increased suicidality, and resulted in symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder for some women. Women who had suffered abuse were also much more likely to become homeless during childhood and it is suggested that this is an important precursor to homelessness for many homeless women with chronic and severe mental illness.

For the past 15 years, homelessness has been a growing and increasingly visible problem in the United States. Many more people live on the streets and in shelters now than in the 1960s and 70s. On a number of dimensions, the composition of the homeless population has changed as well. One of the most prominent changes is in the number of homeless women. The percentage of women among the homeless has increased from less than 4% in the 1960s to somewhere between 20% and 30% in the 1980s and 90s (Bogue, 1963; Burt & Cohen, 1989; Rossi, 1990; Rossi, Fisher, & Willis, 1986; Roth, Toomey, & First, 1992).

There is no single explanation for the overall rise in the homeless population or for the increasing proportion of women among the homeless. Clearly, however, many of the factors contributing to homelessness among women are economic. The increase in female-headed households, from 15% of all households in 1950 to 27% in 1980 (Merves, 1992), the continued participation of women in lower wage occupations, and the decline in low-income housing have all complicated the situation for poor women, and poor individuals in general. These are just a few of the primary economic factors that contribute to homelessness.

There are also important biographical factors that play a role in the likelihood that one will experience homelessness, such as mental health problems and problems with substance abuse. These factors are especially problematic for the poor because they can mean the difference between being able to earn enough money to cover rent and not having enough money for basic necessities.

While there are clearly many such characteristics that are common among homeless individuals, it is becoming increasingly apparent that one important factor for many homeless women is a background of childhood abuse. Studies of homeless women have consistently shown that they report higher levels of childhood physical and sexual abuse than women in the general population, and often higher than other poor women who have housing. In one of the first studies of this issue, Bassuk and Rosenberg (1988) compared homeless women to poor housed women. As opposed to 5% of the housed women, 41% of the homeless women in their study reported having been abused during childhood. In their study, no distinction was made between physical and sexual abuse during childhood.

Wood and colleagues (1989) studied homeless and poor families in the Los Angeles area, with one portion of their investigation focusing on sexual abuse among women. These investigators reported that 31% of the homeless mothers and 21% of the mothers in housing had histories of sexual abuse during childhood. The smaller difference between housed and homeless mothers in this study may have been due to the fact that many of the housed families had been homeless in the past, indicating an overlap between the housed and homeless families. Despite the likely overlap between the two groups, currently homeless women in Wood and colleagues' study were more likely to report having experienced childhood sexual abuse than poor women with housing. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Childhood Abuse as a Precursor to Homelessness for Homeless Women with Severe Mental Illness
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.