Multiple Victimizations Before and After Leaving Home Associated With PTSD, Depression, and Substance Use Disorder Among Homeless Youth

Exposure to multiple forms of maltreatment during childhood is associated with serious mental health consequences among youth in the general population, but limited empirical attention has focused on homeless youth—a population with markedly high rates of childhood maltreatment followed by elevated rates of street victimization. This study investigated the rates of multiple childhood abuses (physical, sexual, and emotional abuse) and multiple street victimizations (robbery, physical assault, and sexual assault) and examined their relative relationships to mental health outcomes (meeting Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision, criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], depression, and substance use disorder) among a large (N = 601) multisite sample of homeless youth. Approximately 79% of youth retrospectively reported multiple childhood abuses (two or more types) and 28% reported multiple street victimizations (two or more types). Each additional type of street victimization nearly doubled youths’ odds for meeting criteria for substance use disorder. Furthermore, each additional type of childhood abuse experienced more than doubled youths’ odds for meeting criteria for PTSD. Both multiple abuses and multiple street victimizations were associated with an approximate twofold increase in meeting depression criteria. Findings suggest the need for screening, assessment, and trauma-informed services for homeless youth who consider multiple types of abuse and victimization experiences.

Publication Date: 
In press
Journal Name: 
Child Maltreatreatment
Los Angeles, CA; Denver, CO; and Austin, TX, USA