Gender differences in early trauma and high-risk behaviors among street-entrenched youth in British Columbia

Objective: This work aimed to evaluate gender differences among the street-entrenched youth in British Columbia in terms of their demographics, experiences of childhood maltreatment, mental health issues, and substance use behaviors.

Materials and methods: Data were derived from the BC Health of the Homeless Study (BCHOHS), carried out in three cities in British Columbia, Canada. Measures included socio-demographic information, the Maudsley Addiction Profile (MAP), the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ), the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI) Plus and the National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients (NSHAPC)-Health Chapter.

Results: Youth constituted 16.5% (n=82) of the homeless population. Females (55%) outnumbered males and engaged in survival sex more frequently (17.8%; p=0.03). Males had greater substance abuse of alcohol (81.1%) and cannabis (89.2%). Depression (p=0.02) and psychosis (p=0.05) were more common among females, while panic disorder was more common among males (p=0.04). Rates of childhood trauma were similar across genders.

Conclusion: Our findings reflect trends among youth where illicit drug use may be similar among genders while males may report increased alcohol and cannabis use, possibly as a means to self medicate their panic-related symptoms. In any case, this population of street entrenched-youth frequently experiences several significant problems ranging from childhood abuse to high rates of substance abuse and mental illnesses.

Publication Date: 
Journal Name: 
International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health
British Columbia, Canada