Successful Transitions to Adulthood for Adolescents with Histories of Homelessness and Running Away: Relationships, Experiences, and Resources Associated with Positive Outcomes Open Access

Staab, Erin M. (2015)

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Background: About 1.6 million youth are homeless in the United States each year. Experiencing homelessness can have lasting physical, psychological, and social consequences, particularly for youth. Homeless youth certainly face difficult circumstances, but many receive support from friends, family, teachers, and social services. According to the Risk Amplification and Abatement Model (RAAM), these positive socialization experiences can ameliorate some of the risks associated with homelessness.

Objective: Based on RAAM and the Positive Youth Development (PYD) framework and using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), this study aimed to identify factors that promote positive adult outcomes for individuals who ran away or were homeless during adolescence.

Methods: Running away, homelessness, and positive socialization experiences in the context of interpersonal relationships, formal institutions, and mental health care were measured at Wave 1 (7th-12th grade) and Wave 3 (age 18-28) of the Add Health study. Outcomes indicative of a successful transition to adulthood were measured at Wave 4 (age 24-34). Linear and logistic regression were used to examine relationships between running away/homelessness and adult outcomes; relationships between positive socialization and adult outcomes; and potential moderation of the relationships between running away/homelessness and outcomes by positive socialization experiences.

Results: Controlling for background characteristics, individuals who ran away had lower subjective wellbeing, fewer close friends, lower relationship functioning, lower income, and lower odds of voting when they reached adulthood as compared to their peers. Controlling for background characteristics, homelessness only predicted lower income. Positive relationships with friends, parents, and other adults; connections to school, work, and volunteering; and health insurance and counseling all predicted positive outcomes. There were no significant interactions. Once positive socialization variables were included, running away was no longer significantly associated with outcomes and the effect of homelessness on income was reduced.

Conclusion: Runaway and homeless experiences are associated with fewer positive outcomes in adulthood. Opportunities for PYD are associated with more positive outcomes in adulthood. Positive experiences did not moderate the relationships between running away/homelessness and outcomes; instead, they might act as mediators. PYD is an important framework for prevention and intervention efforts.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Literature Review 4

Youth Homelessness in the United States 4

Impact of Youth Homelessness 6

Health and Social Services 10

Geographic Context 12

Prevention and Intervention 15

Helpful Resources for Homeless Youth 18

Theoretical Background 22

Purpose of the Study 25

Methods 27

Participants 27

Procedures 27

Measures 28

Analysis 31

Results 35

Runaway and Homeless Experience 35

Positive Socialization 36

Adult Outcomes 36

Discussion 41

Implications for Policy and Practice 45

Strengths and Limitations 47

Directions for Future Research 50

References 52

Tables 65

Conceptual Model 83

Appendices 84

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