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Risk And Protective Factors For Substance Use Among Youth Experiencing Homelessness

Tyler, Kimberly A.;Ray, Colleen M. – 2019

Background: Though research finds that youth experiencing homelessness (YEH) have high rates of substance use, which can lead to numerous long-term negative health effects, less is known about both risk and protective factors for substance use. Moreover, even less is known about whether these factors differ for lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) youth compared to non-LGB youth. In the current study, we compared risk and protective factors for binge drinking, marijuana use, and illicit drug use (i.e. substance use) among heterosexual and sexual minority YEH.

Methods: The sample included 322 young people experiencing homelessness in the Midwestern United States and who were between 16 and 26 years of age. Almost one-half of our sample were female (N = 146; 45%) and 68 youth (21%) identified as LGB.

Results: Youth who experienced more child physical abuse, ran away from home more frequently, and those who had a parent(s) with drug problems were more likely to have reported binge drinking in the past 30 days. Additionally, having parents with drug problems was associated with the use of marijuana and illicit drugs. Conversely, having higher parental monitoring while growing up reduced the likelihood of using marijuana and illicit drugs. Tests for interactions revealed that while self-efficacy had no relationship with the probability of binge drinking for heterosexual youth, as self-efficacy increased, the probability of binge drinking declined drastically for sexual minority youth suggesting this protective mechanism operates differently for these two groups of youth. Additionally, tests of interactions showed that the probability of binge drinking among heterosexual and sexual minority youth also varied by child sexual abuse and street sexual victimization.

Conclusion: Study results have implications for service providers who serve YEH.
Keywords: Child abuse; Homelessness; Parenting; Street victimization; Substance use; sexual minority.