Interaction of Duration of Homelessness and Gender on Adolescent Sexual Health Indicators

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The purpose of this analysis was to determine the effects of duration of homelessness and gender on personal and social resources, cognitive-perceptual factors, and sexual health behaviors among homeless youth.


Cross-sectional analysis of data collected at baseline from 461 homeless adolescents who participated in a sexual health intervention study was done.


Data were collected via laptop computers from homeless adolescents (mean age = 19.52 + 1.91 years) in both comparison and intervention groups before the initiation of the intervention.


Significant interaction effects were found for personal and social resources F (4, 426) = 2.83, p < .05. Male participants who had been homeless < 6 months had significantly higher scores on social connectedness than did male participants who were homeless > 1 year. Univariate analysis of variance (ANOVA) indicated that both boys and girls who had been homeless > 1 year had greater AIDS knowledge, F (1, 441) = 7.91, p < .01, reported significantly more sexual risk-taking behaviors, F (1, 396) = 9.93, p < .05, and engaged in fewer safe-sex behaviors, F (1, 396) = 12.05, p < .05, than did those who had been homeless < 6 months. Univariate ANOVA indicated that female participants had significantly lower levels of perceived health status, F (1, 429) = 12.08, p < .01, significantly greater sexual self-care behaviors, F (1, 396) = 16.29, p < .01, and significantly higher levels of assertive communication F (1, 396) = 4.03, p < .05 than did male participants, regardless of duration of homelessness.


The duration of homelessness and gender has both direct and interaction effects on cognitive-perceptual and behavioral outcomes associated with sexual health.

Clinical Relevance

Nurses and other healthcare providers working with homeless youth recognize the need to develop brief interventions that address health-risk behaviors. Findings from this study indicate that gender-specific interventions should be provided to youth soon after they become homeless.

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