Essay on Cultural Literature Review on Homeless Children

Published: 2021/11/08
Number of words: 1871

Literature Review Research

Worden (2011) agrees that there is a culture of homelessness in the United States. However, there are numerous ways one can view this statement. According to Somerville (2013), a culture of homelessness is the shared beliefs, values, behaviors, and norms among homeless people. Sociologists, on the other hand, would disagree with this statement as they understand that a culture of homelessness is a sense of alienation and purposelessness, extreme poverty, a sense of negative attitude and behavior towards social services (Lee et al., 2010). Nevertheless, the sociological understating is less critical in this case as this paper looks at the inherent culture of homeless children, how it influences their development, and, more importantly, it looks at appropriate teaching and learning strategies.

Background Information

There are many reasons and causes that lead to homelessness; mental illness, poverty, and, more importantly, being born to a homeless parent are some of the underlying excuses for homelessness (Bassuk, 2010). Nevertheless, the essential aspect of homelessness is adapting to unfortunate circumstances. As a homeless individual, one must learn to survive, communicate, and live and associate with other homeless individuals. Those who more readily accept these conditions are far more likely to remain homeless. On the other hand, those who refuse to adapt to the new norm of living will likely spend less time on the street (Guarino, 2013). In other words, one must align with the culture of homelessness to endure the tuff and challenging environment.

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According to Neale and Brown (2015), the culture of homelessness is often accompanied by friendship and care. Initiating friendship as a homeless person may seem awkward; however, to endure and overcome the feeling of loneliness, homeless children often form strong bonds that establish their ontological security (Neale & Brown, 2015). Importantly, the culture of friendship arises out of constant contact with other homeless children. Neale and Brown (2015) agree that the bonds formed at this level often have a quality of understanding that is absent in the mainstream relationship.

Hierarchy is another aspect that makes up the culture of homelessness (Parsell, 2011). Importantly, homeless children usually have leaders, subordinates, and followers. However, the values and traits that create a leader in the homeless community are different from those that establish power in mainstream cultures. In most cases, the children with the most street experience and the ones with the most traumas are the most respected peers. It is this aspect triggers a sense or an environment of violence, which is also a critical aspect of street culture. According to Parsell (2011), pain and trauma are badges of honor in the street as children, and other individuals will often brag how often they have entered into trouble. For instance, women will often brag about the number of times they have been raped. Others will occasionally tout their criminal records, particularly if they were respected criminals within their previous communities.

Furthermore, the culture of homelessness includes an aspect of violence (Crawford et al., 2009). According to Crawford et al. (2009), the violent element in this situation arises from resentment and anger towards the mainstream society. Violence can also occur due to the inability to adequately deal with frustrations and children’s inadequacy in managing their situations. Some may use violence as a tool of intimidation, or a means to maintain their social codes (Ferguson et al., 2015). Importantly, what might be considered violent by people in mainstream society is often not perceived as violence in the homeless culture. Street children view violence as the only acceptable way to fix their problems, and this makes violence an intrinsic part of homeless experience.

Influence on Development

Child development is an ongoing process where children observe and adapt to numerous situations (Evans et al., 2013). Importantly, every child interacts with his or her environment in unique ways; the things they learn and acquire from their designative environments help shape how they think and behave (Evans et al., 2013). In other words, this means that street culture, as a child’s environment, influences child development. The culture of friendship, for instance, develops and establishes a sense of community. A child in this situation would grow up understanding that individuals are meant to interact regardless of their circumstances.

Moreover, this friendship allows children to develop a concept of trust through their shared experiences. Street children develop compassion and understanding, which they would likely lack in the mainstream communities (Fantuzzo et al., 2013). Nevertheless, and more importantly, the culture of friendship establishes a feeling of dependence, and this may affect individuals even in their adulthood. This culture has the potential of locking individuals in a cycle of homelessness. Children grow up to value their bonds in the streets, which creates a significant problem for social workers who may want to remove them from the streets.

Moreover, the culture of violence can be detrimental to a child (Kilmer et al., 2012). In most cases, street children understand that violence is a typical social behavior (Kilmer et al., 2012). Notably, this understanding can impact how a child thinks, feels, and how the child behaves. Likewise, the high exposure to violence and abuse can trigger psychiatric problems that may affect the child even to adulthood. Studies that examine the effects of violence on homeless children found that homeless children have increased levels of trauma; they display signs related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Tyler & Melander, 2013). Other studies found increased levels of depression and other psychiatric disorders, including personality disorder and schizophrenia (Edidin et al., 2011). In like manner, the environment of violence created by street individuals at times makes it hard for street children to intermingle with people from mainstream society (Swick & Williams, 2010). For instance, most of these children would initiate communication through violence, and while this may be normal and acceptable to them, it affects their relationship with other people.

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Plan for Appropriate Teaching and Learning Strategies

It is essential to understand that teaching and learning strategies applied to typical situations do not necessarily work with street children. Therefore it is paramount as an educator to use means and strategies that will cater to the needs of homeless children. To develop an environment that is healthy, supportive, and respectful for street children, the “2010 NAEYC Standards for Initial and Advanced Early Childhood Professional Preparation Programs” recommend that one understands the critical elements of the standard. First, it is paramount to understand a child’s characteristics and needs from conception to the 8th year. In this case, it would be helpful for educators to know whether a child was born by a homeless mother or the homelessness was a result of other factors such as mental illness. Although homelessness is a common factor in this scenario, how professional deals with a child born to homelessness, and those that are homeless due to other factors would use different initiatives. For instance, a child born to homelessness would be comfortable in their circumstances, while those that are homeless due to other factors may be uncomfortable. Secondly, professionals must understand the multiple influences on early development and learning. For instance, they should understand how street bonds, the nature of violence, and street hierarchy influenced the child and, more importantly, how it might impact the child’s learning. By this, the professional would establish appropriate teaching plans that serve the needs of these children. It would also be helpful for tutors to separate the homeless children according to their experiences and street hierarchy. This would ensure that the children are not intimidated by their peers while learning.

Personal Reflection

While I was writing this paper, I was inclined to believe that all of us deserve better; a roof over our head, good food, and all the good things that life provides. However, life will not always give us want we want. More importantly, life exists on a delicate balance; some live to serve others, we have leaders, and unfortunately, there are those who are homeless. Also, i noted in the literature review that homeless individuals have established social aspects similar to those in the mainstream world. They have leaders and societies that are established hierarchically; they have experiences and associations. Although the mainstream world may be motivated to disapprove of such instances, we must learn to accept and appreciate homeless people for whom they are. More importantly, educational institutions and professionals dealing with homeless people’s affairs should consider all these aspects in their endeavors. Rather than viewing their violent acts are abnormal and irrational, we should be willing to guide then on how to express their feelings more rationally.


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Edidin, J., Ganim, Z., Hunter, S., & Karnik, N. (2011). The mental and physical health of homeless youth: a literature review. Child Psychiatry & Human Development43(3), 354-375.

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