There are two factors that limit our knowledge of the risk factors associated with homelessness among runaway adolescents, namely (1) the samples used are often composed of youth homeless service users and/or youths living on the streets (visible homelessness), whereas most adolescents in fact use "private" resources (hidden homelessness), and (2) failure to use an adequate control group to identify risk factors associated specifically with homelessness. Our study compares the characteristics of two groups of youths under the supervision of the youth protection system, according to the presence or absence of periods of homelessness. The results throw light on the factors underlying the shift from "at risk" to "homeless", showing that youths with experience of homelessness are more likely to have been placed in substitute home environments, have experienced significant relationship difficulties with one of their parents (deterioration of the parent/youth relationship and parental abuse) and to have been diagnosed with behavioural disorders. The findings suggest that the decision to place young people under supervision is based more on the dynamic between risk factors rather than on the existence of behavioural problems.
Evidence has linked residential instability and engagement in high-risk behaviors. This paper longitudinally examines the relationship between changes in residential stability and changes in HIV risk behaviors among Montréal street youth (SY). Between April 2006 and May 2007, 419 SY (18-25 years old) were recruited in a cohort study. SY (using Montréal street youth agencies services) were eligible if they had had at least one 24-hour episode of homelessness in the previous 30 days. Baseline and follow-up interviews, carried out every 3 months, included completion of a questionnaire (based on Life History Calendar Technique) assessing daily sleeping arrangements since the last interview, and monthly sexual and drug use behaviors. Using mixed-effects logistic regression method, we examined the association between various risk behaviors and residential stability, reached when a youth resided in any of the following settings for a whole month: own place; friends'/partner's/parent's place; any types of housing service (excluding emergency shelters). Analyses were carried out controlling for gender, age, education level, lifetime duration of homelessness, childhood sexual trauma, and lifetime mental health disorders. As of January 2009, 360 SY (79% boys) had completed at least one follow-up interview, representing 4,889 months of follow-up. Residential stability was significantly associated with the following: sex exchange (adjusted odd ratio [AOR], 0.25; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.14-0.37), drug injection (AOR, 0.55; CI, 0.33-0.76), daily alcohol consumption (AOR, 0.58; CI, 0.42-0.74), polydrug consumption (AOR, 0.61; CI, 0.50-0.73), polydrug consumption excluding marijuana (AOR, 0.55; CI, 0.45-0.65), and multiple sex partners (=3 partners; AOR, 0.57; CI, 0.40-0.74). Our results suggest a reciprocal relationship between residential instability and HIV risk behaviors. This calls for more integrated services combining both individual and structural-level interventions to improve the health of street youth.
This study examines the relationship between two explanatory factors connected to the phenomena of runaways and the homeless among adolescents: behavioral problems of youths and parental violence to which they are subjected. The study demonstrates that these two factors are independently related to the different categories of homeless and runaway adolescents.
The data was collected from 130 adolescents (12 to 17 years of age) who were runaways for short periods on a recurring basis. Two subgroups were formed: Group A consisted of 79 adolescents who did not exhibit behavioral problems; Group B consisted of the other 51 who did exhibit them. The two groups had certain similar family characteristics (income levels, parents' occupations, structure and stability of the family).
The bivariate analyses reveal significant differences between the two groups of runaways relating to: (1) gender, (2) a diagnosed conduct disorder, (3) affiliations with deviant peers, and (4) experiences of parental violence. The discriminant analysis demonstrates that these four variables clearly differentiate the two groups of runaways and predict the appropriate group membership for 84% of the cases. Therefore, the members of Group B have a higher probability of being diagnosed as having a conduct disorder, being male, and associating with delinquent peers. This group had not experienced a higher level of parental violence. The opposite is true for the members of Group A.
Our study demonstrates that parental violence and behavioral problems are variables that are independently related to the defined categories of runaways. Therefore, these variables do not constitute, as some thinkers have claimed, the components of a unique dynamic able to explain the phenomenon of the runaway. Our results vitiate the doubts sometimes expressed by researchers about the importance of parental violence to the phenomenon of adolescent runaways.