Primary Sources: Why Are Homeless Youth at High-Risk for Dating Violence?

A young woman holds her hand out on front of herself in self defense.

Poor Parenting and Antisocial Behavior Among Homeless Young Adults: Links to Dating Violence Perpetration and Victimization” (abstract). Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Vol. 27, No. 7 (May, 2012).

What it’s about: Researchers wanted to test two theories about dating violence among homeless youth. (1) Does growing up in a household marred by violence lead young people to “learn” to be victims? (2) Does having abusive, neglectful or distant parents lead young people to use drugs and get in trouble with the law, and then by extension to become victims or perpetrators of dating violence? Data for this paper came from the Homeless Young Adult Project, a study of about 200 youth ages 19 to 25 in three Midwestern cities.

Why read it: We know that homeless youth often are victims and witnesses of violence, before and after they become homeless. But researchers are still teasing out the relationships between youth’s childhood experiences at home and their likelihood of becoming victims or perpetrators of different types of violence as teens and young adults. This study attempts to improve our understanding of what leads to dating violence for homeless youth.

Biggest takeaways for youth workers: The researchers found that 6 in 10 homeless or formerly homeless youth had been in a violent dating relationship. A few factors, in and of themselves, made a young person more likely to be one of those six:

  • Being neglected as a child
  • Using drugs
  • Being a young woman
  • Being an older youth
  • Not being white

The researchers also found that two groups of youth had higher rates of drug use: young men and young people who had been physically abused by an adult. Their higher drug use also made them more likely to be in a violent relationship.

The researchers’ findings highlight the need for those who work with homeless and formerly homeless youth to educate youth about dating violence and healthy relationships.

Additional references: The “Runaway and Homeless Youth and Relationship Violence Toolkit,” from the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, guides youth workers through the steps of collaborating with domestic violence prevention and services organizations.

(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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