Stress and traumatic stress: how do past events influence current traumatic stress among mother's experiencing homelessness?

Janet K. Williams, University of Iowa
J. A. Hall


The purpose of this research was to evaluate the relationship between past traumatic events and the level ofcurrent traumatic stress among mothers experiencing homelessness.The data for this study were gathered from 75 homeless mothers between May 2006 and October 2006 using a cross-sectional survey design with purposive sampling. All mothers were interviewed in a face-to-face, semistructured interview format using standardized questionnaires and measures, including the Global Appraisal ofIndividual Needs-Quick, Williams' Life History Calendar ofTraumatic Events, the Traumatic Stress Index, and the Davidson Trauma Scale. The mothers ranged in age from 18 to 50. Forty-four percent were white, 21% were African American, 3% were Native American, 31 % identified themselves as multiracial, and 9% reported Hispanic ethnicity. The analysis indicated that the average level of traumatic stress from past traumatic events and the number ofdistressing (but nontraumatic) events did not influence current traumatic stress; however, the number ofpast traumatic events significantly influenced the current level of traumatic stress among mothers experiencing homelessness. Recommendations for future research include investigating how traumatic stress affects a mother's ability to locate, find, and retain housing and how trauma interventions influence mothers to exit homelessness.