The psychosocial profile of adolescent risk of homelessness

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Abstract

Objective

To contrast the psychosocial profile of adolescents with risk factors for homelessness, identified using Chamberlain and MacKenzie's self-report scale, compared to the profiles of homeless adolescents.

Methods

Multinomial logistic regression analyses were conducted contrasting profiles for (a) 137 homeless adolescents, (b) 766 secondary students reporting risk factors for homelessness, and (c) 4,844 students not reporting risks for homelessness.

Results

Fourteen percent of a representative population of at-school adolescents, from Victoria, Australia, showed elevated risk of homelessness. These adolescents showed depressive symptoms at least equivalent to homeless adolescents (RR 6.0, 95% CI: 4.9, 7.3, and RR 3.5, 95% CI: 2.1, 5.8, respectively). In multivariate analyses, homeless and at risk adolescents reported equivalent levels of family conflict, early problem behaviour and low opportunities and rewards for family involvement. Compared to adolescents not at risk, at risk adolescents were more likely to be female and to show poorer social skills/assertiveness and depressive symptoms. Compared to at risk adolescents, homeless adolescents showed additional family, school, peer and individual risks, but lower depressive symptomatology.

Conclusions

The findings highlight the potential we have to quickly and simply detect adolescents showing significant risk of homelessness. This sizable minority of adolescents report risks often equivalent to homeless adolescents. It is hoped that stakeholders working with young people will utilise this screening potential to identify and intervene effectively with this significant subpopulation of youth, and their families, while they are still at home and school.

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