HealthDay News  — One-quarter of homeless children in the United States require mental health services — far more than kids in the general population, a new study shows.

North Carolina State University researchers examined data on 328 children, aged 2 months to 6 years, at 11 homeless shelters in Wake County, North Carolina

“We found that 25% of the children in shelters needed mental health services, based on their social-emotional functioning,” study co-author and PhD student Jenna Armstrong said in a university news release.

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The rate is 10% to 14% among children 5 years and younger in the general population, according to Columbia University’s National Center for Children in Poverty.

Also, the academic and language skills of homeless children aged 5 to 6 were well below average, according to the study published online in the Early Childhood Education Journal.

“These children have often been exposed to domestic or neighborhood violence, chronic poverty, inadequate health care and other circumstances that place any child at risk of mental health problems,” lead author and professor of psychology Mary Haskett, PhD, said in the news release.


Haskett ME, et al. Developmental Status and Social–Emotional Functioning of Young Children Experiencing Homelessness. Early Child Educ J. 2015; doi: 10.1007/s10643-015-0691-8.