Language ability and adult homelessness

Graham Pluck, Brittany M. Barajas, José L. Hernandez-Rodriguez, María A. Martínez

Producción científica: Contribución a una revistaArtículorevisión exhaustiva

9 Citas (Scopus)


Background: People experiencing homelessness are at increased risk of neurological disorder due to multiple factors such as substance abuse, infection, and higher rates of serious mental illness and traumatic brain injury. This could affect cognitive and language skills. Indeed, past research has suggested that certain language-related skills tend to be lower in people experiencing homelessness. However, that research has compared homeless samples with age-matched normative samples and not with samples of people from similar socio-economic backgrounds. Therefore, it is unclear whether homelessness is even a relevant factor, or if adults who are homeless tend to have appropriate linguistic skills relative to their social and educational background. Aims: To compare the language skills of a group of adults with histories of homelessness with an education-matched control group. It was hypothesized that participants with histories of homelessness would have worse language performance than their matched controls. Methods & Procedures: A quasi-experimental design was employed involving 17 adults with histories of homelessness, mainly rough sleeping, in the city of Quito in Ecuador, and a sample of 16 adults who had never been homeless. All were assessed with measures of head injury, substance dependence, affective disorder and language skills. A paired-sample analysis was performed on homeless and control participants matched for educational background, used as an index of socio-economic background. Outcomes & Results: The mean years of formal education was low in both the homeless sample (mean = 5.82 years) and the control sample (mean = 6.75 years). There were no differences between the groups for any demographic or clinical factors, nor for a measure of expected or ‘premorbid’ ability based on single-word reading, nor for current non-verbal cognitive functioning. In contrast, the homeless group scored significantly worse than the control group on measures of auditory comprehension and oral expression. Conclusions & Implications: Adults with histories of homelessness may have worse language skills than would be expected based on their educational backgrounds and non-verbal cognitive abilities. It is possible that some of this lower language ability is pathological, in the form of either a developmental language disorder or an acquired impairment. As such, some adults who are homeless may benefit from therapy directed at clinical language disorders.

Idioma originalInglés
Páginas (desde-hasta)332-344
Número de páginas13
PublicaciónInternational Journal of Language and Communication Disorders
EstadoPublicada - 1 may. 2020


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