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Priya Nalkur published in Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies

An article by Priya G. Nalkur, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at APPC’s Annenberg Center for Advanced Study in Communication, was published in the journal Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies (December 2009). Nalkur’s research with Tanzanian street children, former street children, and school-going children sheds light on the possible role of rehabilitative care in positively shifting the future priorities of youth who have been homeless.
Research on street children has typically described the phenomenon and examined the risks of street life to healthy development. Thus far, research has not contextualized street children’s psychosocial lives by comparing them with non-street children or street children undergoing rehabilitation. The purpose of this study was to assess how the life priorities of Tanzanian street children, former street children and school-going children (n = 183) differ according to their living environment. The “Importance scale” was designed and validated for this study. It includes 29 four-level Likert items about relationships, activities and family, encompassing two subscales: current well-being (Cronbach’s agr = 0.65) and preparing for the future (Cronbach’s agr = 0.72). Data were analyzed using analysis of variance and contingency tables to determine group-level differences. Post-hoc Bonferroni tests determined pairwise differences. The analyses demonstrate significant differences in 14 of 29 priorities according to living context. With only three differences, former street children were more similar to school-going children than they were to street children. Street children and school-going children differed on 12 items, while street children and former street children differed on nine items. Street children considered that obtaining good advice from adults, having a dependable place to sleep and having time for enjoyable activities are most important, while former street children and school-going children pointed to education-related ambitions as most important. Findings show that after just 1 year of rehabilitative care, former street children’s priorities are more similar to school-going children’s, and thus rehabilitative care may be instrumental in enabling children to prioritize preparing for the future. Street children’s emphasis on a safe place to sleep and adult support may reflect unmet basic needs. Former street children’s high priorities on education and protecting themselves may represent healthy adaptation and a hopeful orientation to the future. High-quality rehabilitation for homeless youth can fulfill essential needs that may promote positive shifts in street children’s priorities.
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