Primary Sources: Homeless Youth Do Not Necessarily Lack Self-Esteem, Self-Efficacy

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Photograph of a young woman looking over her shoulder.

"Substance Use, Self-Esteem, and Self-Efficacy Among Homeless and Runaway Youth in New Orleans." Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal (abstract), Vol. 29, No. 2 (2012).

What it’s about: Researchers asked 51 New Orleans runaway and homeless youth about their drug use and their levels of self-esteem and self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the ability to complete tasks and reach goals.

Why read it: Low self-esteem and self-efficacy have been linked to drug use and abuse. And though researchers have found low self-esteem to be common among street youth, little has been known about how homeless youth feel about their own abilities. This study, despite its small number of youth surveyed, adds to the research.

Biggest takeaways for youth workers: Youth surveyed for the study had slightly above-average self-esteem and self-efficacy (according to the scale the researchers used). The researchers point out that for many young people, leaving home may have been a healthy step, allowing them to escape an unhealthy or abusive environment and to take control of their lives. Youth workers should not assume runaway and homeless youth feel poorly about themselves or lack self-confidence, they write.

The researchers also found that most youth who drank and used drugs had substance abuse problems. Youth workers should look out for drinking paired with drug use, because that might be a sign of addiction among homeless youth, the researchers say.

Additional references: Check out NCFY's list of screening and assessment tools for measuring young people's mental health, substance abuse and independent living skills.

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.)

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