Family Risk Factors and Prevalence of Dissociative Symptoms Among Homeless and Runaway Youth

This study focuses on the family risk factors and predictors of runaway youth with dissociative disorder.

Objective: To examine family risk factors associated with dissociative symptoms among homeless and runaway youth.

Method: Three hundred and twenty-eight homeless and runaway youth were interviewed using a systematic sampling strategy in metropolitan Seattle. Homeless young people were interviewed on the streets and in shelters by outreach workers in youth service agencies.

Results: The current study revealed widespread prevalence of dissociative symptoms among these young people. Multivariate analyses revealed that sexual abuse, physical abuse, and family mental health problems were all positively associated with dissociative symptoms. No gender differences were found for any of the models.

Conclusions: Dissociative behavior is widespread among these youth and may pose a serious mental health concern. Some young people experience numerous stressors, and with few resources and little support available, many may invoke maladaptive strategies such as dissociative behavior to handle such situations, which may in turn be detrimental to their mental health. Unless youth are provided with programs and intervention, the cycle of abuse that they have experienced at home is likely to continue on the street. (Authors)

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Child Abuse and Neglect