America's Shame: Women and Children in Shelter and the Degradation of Family Roles

By Barbara A. Arrighi | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
Shelter Life and Its Effects on Children's Development

What are children who live in poverty, in substandard housing, and in unsafe neighborhoods to believe of a society that claims to revere the family and to hold family values superior to all other values? How does temporary housing affect children?

Children who live in a transitional state know no structure, no order, no predictability; they know only chaos. 1 For a child who looks to the adults in her life for security, the sight of her mother or father losing control over life's basic needs can damage her development of trust and sense of security. Many factors can influence the impact of such a transitional state, including the length of time in which the family is without a home, the availability of a support system for the family, and the child's age, sex, and temperament. Even so, the child is influenced by the emotional and physical environment of the available temporary housing. 2

Loss of home is not the only event that affects a child's sense of security. The process of poverty begins with one or a combination of crises, including separation, divorce, or death of a parent or caretaker, the head of household's loss of employment, declining household income, loss of extended-kin support system, and/or increased family conflict. Any of these factors can affect a child

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