196946 Factors contributing to homelessness among LGB youths: A developmental milestone perspective

Wednesday, November 11, 2009: 12:45 PM

Margaret Rosario, PhD , Department of Psychology, The City University of New York - City College and Graduate Center, New York, NY
Eric W. Schrimshaw, PhD , Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY
Joyce Hunter, DSW , HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, NY
INTRODUCTION: Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youths are at higher risk of homelessness than heterosexual youths, and homelessness is associated with poorer health. However, little is known about why some LGB youths become homeless and others do not. Using a developmental perspective, we compared homeless and non-homeless LGB youths on the initiation of various developmental milestones. METHOD: An ethnically diverse sample of 156 LGB youths (ages 14-21, 49% female) was recruited from LGB organizations in New York City. RESULTS: Of the youths, 48% reported a history of homelessness. Homeless youths initiated nearly all milestones of the coming-out process at significantly earlier ages than non-homeless youths (e.g., mean, M, first awareness of same-sex orientation = 10.9 years vs. 11.9 years; M same-sex activity = 13.8 vs. 15.2). Homeless and non-homeless youths did not differ on ages at puberty, first sexual abuse, and first disclosure of sexual orientation to others. Homeless youths initiated substance use at an significantly earlier age than non-homeless youths (e.g., M alcohol use = 14.0 vs. 14.8); substance use typically coincided or occurred after homelessness; and homeless youths endorsed using substances to cope with many more situations than did non-homeless youths. DISCUSSION: Although ages at initiating puberty, abuse, disclosure, and substance use do not contribute to homelessness, earlier coming-out experiences may contribute to subsequent homelessness. Thus, interventions to prevent homelessness need to target LGB youths very early in the coming-out process, providing them with the coping skills to manage their developing identities.

Learning Objectives:
1. Recognize that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youths are at high risk for homelessness, and that all samples of LGB youths may contain youths with a history of homelessness. 2. Articulate when homelessness occurs in the development of LGB youths. 3. Describe the developmental differences that exist between homeless and non-homeless LGB youths. 4. Apply these findings to the development of interventions designed to prevent homelessness among LGB youths.

Keywords: Gay, Homelessness

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I hold a PhD in psychology, I am the PI for this study, and I have published extensively in the area of LGB youth and their health.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.