Learning and achievement characteristics of sheltered homeless population subgroups

BACKGROUND: There is little systematic information about intelligence and academic achievement among sheltered homeless adults. This study adds descriptive data on intelligence and academic achievement, examines discrepancies across these concepts, and explores the associations among demographic and psychosocial characteristics in the context of intelligence categories and discrepancies.

METHODS: We studied intelligence, academic achievement, and discrepancies between IQ and academic achievement among 188 individuals experiencing homelessness who were systematically recruited from a large, urban, 24-hour homeless recovery center. Participants completed structured interviews, urine drug testing, the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence, and the Wide Range Achievement Test, 4th edition.

RESULTS: Average full-scale intelligence was low average (90) but higher than scores obtained in other studies of homeless populations. Academic achievement was lower than average (82 to 88). Performance/math deficits in the higher intelligence group indicate functional difficulties that could have contributed to homeless risk.

CONCLUSIONS: The low-normal intelligence and below-average achievement scores are not extreme enough to warrant immediate attention and intervention for most individuals. Systematic screening during entry into homeless services might identify learning strengths and weaknesses, presenting modifiable factors that could be addressed in focused educational/vocational interventions.

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