Background: The ability of homeless youth to accumulate resources through their personal relationships with others (i.e. social capital) is often associated with improved outcomes across multiple domains. Despite growing evidence documenting the heterogeneity of homeless youths’ relationships, many youth still experience adversities or lack access to resources. Thus, a more comprehensive investigation of homeless youths’ sources of social capital and the factors associated with these networks is needed.
Objectives: This current study aimed: (1) to delineate the composition of social support networks of homeless youth and (2) to identify salient correlates of these different sources of social support.
Methods: A sample of 1046 youth, ages 13–24, were recruited from three homeless youth drop-in-centers. Youth completed a computerized self-administered survey and a social network interview. Multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine whether youths’ homelessness backgrounds, victimization experiences, and risky behaviors were associated with different emotional and instrumental forms of social capital.
Results: Overall rates of homeless youths’ social support from all sources were low. Rates of emotional support were greater than instrumental support, with youth with histories of physical abuse, street victimization, and foster care reporting more emotional support from some sources. Street victimized youth were significantly more likely to report having emotional and instrumental support from all sources of capital.
Conclusion: Findings suggest the need for careful consideration of youths’ support systems when providing services to homeless youth. Specifically, it may be important to assess the common supports utilized by youth in order to maximize youths’ social networks