Homeless youth and their exposure to and involvement in violence while living on the streets

J Adolesc Health. 1997 May;20(5):360-7. doi: 10.1016/S1054-139X(97)00037-2.


Purpose: The purpose of this research were to explore homeless youths' histories of exposure to violence, perpetration of violence, and fear of violent victimization, and to examine the extent to which these constructs are associated with demographic variables.

Methods: A sample of 432 youth (between 13 and 23 years old) who were homeless or at imminent risk for homelessness were sampled from both service and street sites. The percentage of youth who reported exposure to each type of violence was calculated. Multiple regression analyses were used to examine differences in the risk of exposure to violence across gender, ethnicity, age, and length of time homeless.

Results: Respondents reported a high rate of exposure to violence. Female respondents reported levels of exposure to violence that were as high as those reported by males. Females were more likely to report having been sexually assaulted and fearing victimization, and tended to be less likely to report perpetrating violence. With a few exceptions, ethnic identity was not a significant predictor of exposure to violence or fear of victimization. Age tended to be inversely associated with risk of exposure to violence. Length of time homeless was not associated with fear of victimization.

Conclusions: Homeless youth are at high risk for exposure to a variety of forms violence as both witnesses and victims. The overall rates of exposure to violence and patterns of association with demographic variables are significantly higher than those reported in national samples of adolescents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Crime Victims / psychology*
  • Demography
  • Depression / etiology
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Homeless Youth / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology
  • Violence / psychology*