Poster Session
Issue Date: July 2015
Published Online: July 01, 2015
Updated: April 30, 2020
Predictors of Social Skills and Problem Behaviors in Homeless and Low-Income-Housed Preschool Children
Author Affiliations
  • Saint Louis University
Article Information
Early Intervention / Pediatric Evaluation and Intervention / Rehabilitation, Participation, and Disability / Sensory Integration and Processing / Basic Research
Poster Session   |   July 01, 2015
Predictors of Social Skills and Problem Behaviors in Homeless and Low-Income-Housed Preschool Children
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July 2015, Vol. 69, 6911505022.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July 2015, Vol. 69, 6911505022.

Date Presented 4/16/2015

Low-income preschool child social skills/problem behaviors predicted by sensory processing, mother sense of competence, and housed/homeless status provide evidence for community-based occupational therapy practice models for early identification/intervention to enhance children’s social participation and learning.

SIGNIFICANCE: Self-regulation/social skills are critical for child social participation and learning. This study of low-income preschool children provides evidence that sensory processing and mother’s sense of competence are predictive of children’s self-regulation/social skills; furthermore, this study elucidates the importance of occupational therapy in community-based and primary care settings to improve multirisk children’s social participation.
INNOVATION: This study explores a gap in the research on social/sensory behaviors in homeless/low-income children. It addresses a 2010 federal call to study homeless children in underinvestigated Midwest regions and the increased incidence of challenging behaviors in young children. Predictive factors of sensory processing and mother’s sense of competence provide directions for early identification/intervention of child challenging behaviors.
RESEARCH QUESTION: What are the predictors of social skills/problem behaviors in homeless and low-income-housed preschool children?
RATIONALE/BACKGROUND: In the United States, 1.6 million children are homeless, and many exhibit challenging behaviors that impair social/school performance and later life/work skills. Poor sensory processing impedes self-regulation and is greater in Head Start and homeless children. Homeless mothers exhibit higher rates of abuse/mental illness that affect mothering occupations. This study explored child social/emotional behaviors predicted by child, mother, and housing variables.
METHOD: Quantitative methods described the data gathered from mothers and predicted the effect of child, mother, and housing on child social skill/problem behaviors. A total of 45 homeless and 46 low-income-housed mothers aged ≥18 yr with a preschool child were interviewed. Homeless mothers from four support living centers and low-income-housed mothers from two Head Start centers were recruited.
The Social Skills Rating Scale (SSRS) measured social skills/problem behaviors. The Short Sensory Profile (SSP) measured tactile, taste/smell, movement, visual/auditory, avoidance/sensation seeking, and low energy. The Parent Sense of Competence Scale (PSOC) measured parental self-efficacy/satisfaction.
Univariate, correlation, and multiple regression statistics were used to analyze the data. A coefficient of determination was used to report the combined model variance. Beta weights were used to report each predictive variable on the outcome variable SSRS. An analysis of variance (ANOVA) F-ratio was used to report the model’s significance.
RESULTS: SSRS correlated with child SSP (r2 = .56, p < .001), mother PSOC (r2 = .42, p < .001), and housing (r2 = .22, p < .001). The SSP (t = 5.20, β = .47, p < .001) followed by PSOC (t = 2.89, β = .26, p < .01) were most predictive of child SSRS. An adjusted r2 = .36 showed a variance (F[17.78] = 3.00, p < .001) of more than one-third of child SSRS and an effect size of ƒ2 = .61. Housing did not predict SSRS (t = 0.13, β = .01, ns).
CONCLUSION: Poor SSRS and SSP in both homeless and low-income-housed families suggest the negative influence of toxic stress on child development. The predictive strength of SSP on SSRS validates the critical impact of sensory processing on child social–emotional learning, occupational therapists’ role in early identification/child find, and future efficacy studies to improve child self-regulation/social behaviors. A study limitation is the noninclusivity of all homeless and low-income-housed families, including a multiracial sample.