Homeless youths' interpersonal perspectives of health care providers

Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2008 Dec;29(12):1277-89. doi: 10.1080/01612840802498235.


In the United States, youth run away from home due to poor interpersonal relationships with parents or guardians; often times, they have been the recipients of parental neglect or abuse. As youth become increasingly entrenched in street-based living and problem substance use, their ability to rehabilitate their lives is incumbent upon trusting and engaging relationships with adult service providers. A total of 54 substance-using homeless youth (18-25 years) participated in focus groups to provide their perspectives on encounters and interpersonal relationships with health care providers. Participants were recruited from shelters in Hollywood, California, and from a drop-in shelter in Santa Monica, California. Four themes related to interpersonal barriers to care from service providers were identified: authoritative communication, one-way communication, disrespect, and empathy. Participants appreciate care providers who convey information in a helpful, meaningful manner and prefer providers who can, themselves, share similar life experiences. Implications point to the need for agencies and services specifically tailored to homeless, drug-using youth. These agencies should employ care providers who are trained to understand the developmental needs and histories of runaway youth. For proper reintegration of this vulnerable population into mainstream society, the narratives of these youth underscore the necessity of targeted services.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Authoritarianism
  • California
  • Communication
  • Empathy
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Homeless Youth / education
  • Homeless Youth / psychology*
  • Homeless Youth / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Needs Assessment / organization & administration*
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Professional Competence / standards
  • Professional Role* / psychology
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Trust