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Substance use and victimization: Street-involved youths' perspectives and service implications


  • Bender, Kimberly
  • Thompson, Sanna J.
  • Ferguson, Kristin
  • Komlo, Chelsea
  • Taylor, Chelsea
  • Yoder, Jamie


Homeless youths' use of substances is highly related to experiences of trauma and the development of posttraumatic stress symptoms. The current study approached homeless young people to elicit their perspectives regarding how their substance use and trauma experiences are interrelated. Recruited from a homeless youth service settings, youth (n=50) participated in qualitative, semi-structured, face-to-face interviews that queried youth on two broad topics: how substances might place youth at risk for victimization and how substances may be used as a coping strategy. Youth identified several ways substance use placed them at further risk (e.g., decreasing awareness of potential danger, increasing physical risk through overdose or addiction, disconnecting them from support systems, and increasing risk for violence related to criminal behavior). They also described multiple ways in which substances temporarily helped them cope with past trauma (e.g., escaping difficult thoughts, improving negative moods, relaxing, and socializing with others). Many youth (68%) described using substances as a “temporary fix” or “band-aid” to cope with memories of past trauma that eventually placed them at higher risk for further victimization. Adaptations to existing prevention services that incorporate the interconnectedness between substance use and trauma are suggested.

Suggested Citation

  • Bender, Kimberly & Thompson, Sanna J. & Ferguson, Kristin & Komlo, Chelsea & Taylor, Chelsea & Yoder, Jamie, 2012. "Substance use and victimization: Street-involved youths' perspectives and service implications," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 34(12), pages 2392-2399.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:cysrev:v:34:y:2012:i:12:p:2392-2399
    DOI: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2012.09.008

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Martijn, Claudine & Sharpe, Louise, 2006. "Pathways to youth homelessness," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(1), pages 1-12, January.
    2. repec:aph:ajpbhl:2004:94:4:651-656_1 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Thompson, Sanna & Jun, Jina & Bender, Kimberly & Ferguson, Kristin M. & Pollio, David E., 2010. "Estrangement factors associated with addiction to alcohol and drugs among homeless youth in three U.S. cities," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 418-427, November.
    4. Tyler, Kimberly & Melander, Lisa & Almazan, Elbert, 2010. "Self injurious behavior among homeless young adults: A social stress analysis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 269-276, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ferguson, Kristin M. & Bender, Kimberly & Thompson, Sanna J., 2016. "Predicting illegal income generation among homeless male and female young adults: Understanding strains and responses to strains," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 101-109.
    2. Wachter, Karin & Thompson, Sanna J. & Bender, Kimberly & Ferguson, Kristin, 2015. "Predictors of multiple arrests among homeless young adults: Gender differences," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 32-38.


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