Psychosocial Effects of Environmental Factors

  • Charles N. Oberg
  • Jolene Bertrand
  • Sharon Muret-Wagstaff
Part of the Springer Series on Human Exceptionality book series (SSHE)


In the 1960s, Michael Harrington, in the landmark book, The Other America, opened our eyes to the plight of the “invisible poor” among us and the impact of the environment on their lives. This book helped to launch the war on poverty (Harrington, 1963). Twenty-five years later, Jonathan Kozol awakened us to the state of homelessness among families with children in his work, Rachel and Her Children—Homeless Families in America. In this work, the chapter titled “The Road to Potter’s Field” documented the lament and sorrow of Holly, her family, and their exceptional infant named Benjamin who lived in and out of homeless shelters and welfare hotels. Benjamin, a low-birth-weight infant, contracted a perinatal viral infection that “left him partially blind, brain damaged, deaf and hydrocephalic” (Kozol, 1988). In the course of his short life he also developed a seizure disorder, which was inadequately treated, and suffered from repeated illnesses that led to multiple hospitalizations and his eventual death before his 1st birthday. This vignette exemplifies the difficulty faced by families with exceptional children. In spite of Holly’s best efforts to secure the most basic human essentials such as food, shelter, clothing, and access to adequate health and social service support, the system was unable to respond.


Child Abuse Psychosocial Effect Supplemental Security Income Homeless Population Homeless Child 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles N. Oberg
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jolene Bertrand
    • 3
  • Sharon Muret-Wagstaff
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PediatricsHennepin County Medical CenterMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.University of Minnesota Medical SchoolMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.Minneapolis Medical Research FoundationHennepin County Medical CenterMinneapolisUSA
  4. 4.Harvard Medical SchoolChildren’s HospitalBostonUSA

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