Why Street Youth Become Involved in Crime - Homeless Hub Research Summary Series

Research on street youth in Canada suggests these young people are heavily ‘at-risk’ of becoming involved in criminal activities. Street youth, however, become involved in criminal activities to different degrees, ranging from not at all to high rates of participation. The types of offenses they engage in also vary, and can include property crimes, distribution of drugs, and violent crimes such as robbery and physical altercations. Research has demonstrated that the road to the street often begins with adversity in the home including abuse, neglect, food insecurity, and parental substance use, which leaves one at greater risk for criminal behaviour. This may be the result of weakened emotional attachments to guardians or from viewing the world as a coercive, hostile environment. There is a strong link between some types of abuse and crime, such as physical abuse and violent offending. Those who experience particularly hostile abuse often see aggression as the way to solve problems and adopt values and attitudes that support the use of violence. Once leaving home many youth must also resort to crime as a means of survival, or to help cope with life on the streets.

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Gaetz, S., O’Grady, B., Buccieri, K., Karabanow, J., & Marsolais, A. (Eds.), Youth Homelessness in Canada: Implications for Policy and Practice. Toronto: Canadian Homelessness Research Network Press.

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