Original Article

Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 76, Issue 1, pp 39-50

First online:

The montefiore community children's project: A controlled study of cognitive and emotional problems of homeless mothers and children

  • Mutya San AgustinAffiliated withPrimary Care Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center
  • , Patricia CohenAffiliated withNew York State Psychiatric InstituteColumbia University School of Public Health
  • , David RubinAffiliated withNew York Flushing Hospital (Cornell Medical College Affiliate)
  • , Sean D. ClearyAffiliated withNew York Medical College
  • , Canadace J. EricksonAffiliated withColumbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
  • , Janet K. AllenAffiliated with

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This study compares the prevalence of emotional, academic, and cognitive impairment in children and mothers living in the community with those living in shelters for the homeless.


In New York City, 82 homeless mothers and their 102 children, aged 6 to 11, recruited from family shelters were compared to 115 nonhomeless mothers with 176 children recruited from classmates of the homeless children. Assessments included standardized tests and interviews.


Mothers in shelters for the homeless showed higher rates of depression and anxiety than did nonhomeless mothers. Boys in homeless shelters showed higher rates of serious emotional and behavioral problems. Both boys and girls in homeless shelters showed more academic problems than did nonhomeless children.


Study findings suggest a need among homeless children for special attention to academic problems that are not attributable to intellectual deficits in either children or their mothers. Although high rates of emotional and behavioral problems characterized poor children living in both settings, boys in shelters for the homeless may be particularly in need of professional attention.