An Inside Look at Homeless Youths' Social Networks: Perceptions of Substance Use Norms

Melander, L. A.,
Tyler, K. A.,
Schmitz, R. M.
Year Published: 2016
Journal Article
Journal Name: 
Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse
Volume: 25

Issue: 1
Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group

Research has documented high rates of individual substance use among homeless youth, yet little is known about the perceived substance use patterns and norms within their social networks. In this study, the authors used a qualitative approach to explore the ways in which group norms lead to high-risk individual behavior within homeless youths’ social networks. A sample of 19 homeless young people aged 16 to 21 completed in-depth interviews. Four main themes emerged from the data: substance use choices, drug use safety concerns, encouragement and/or discouragement of substance use, and situations in which substance use is condoned among homeless young people. The findings provide unique insight into the norms associated with drug and alcohol use within homeless youths’ social networks. The authors suggest that interventions focus on changing social norms among homeless youths, and on helping those with histories of abuse to develop alternative coping strategies. Modified Author Abstract.

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