LOS ANGELES, July 29 (UPI) -- Seven percent of U.S. fifth-graders and their families have experienced homelessness -- 11 percent for blacks -- and it takes a toll, researchers say.
The multisite study by researchers at the University of California in Los Angeles and the Rand Corp. also found that children who had experienced homelessness at some point during their lives were significantly more likely to have an emotional, behavioral or developmental problem. They were more likely to have witnessed serious violence with a knife or a gun; and were more likely to have received mental health care, the study says.
Dr. Tumaini R. Coker of Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA and the Rand Corp. and colleagues analyzed data from a study of 5,147 fifth-grade students. Interviews of students and parents were conducted during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 school years and included children from Birmingham, Ala.; Houston and Los Angeles.
"It was unexpected to see such a high prevalence of family homelessness in this sample of fifth-grade students, were literally homeless -- staying in places like shelters, cars or on the streets," Coker, the lead author, said in a statement.
"Our results suggest that in a classroom of 28 fifth-graders, two students would have been homeless at some point in their lives."
The findings are published in the American Journal of Public Health.