245738 Exploring Protective Processes among Runaway and Homeless Youth: The Role of Natural Mentors

Wednesday, November 2, 2011: 8:30 AM

Michelle Dang, PhD , School of Nursing, California State University, Sacramento, Sacramento, CA
Katherine Conger, PhD , Human & Community Development, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA
Joshua Breslau, PhD, ScD , Internal Medicine, University of California at Davis School of Medicine, Sacramento, CA
Elizabeth Miller, MD, PhD , Division of Adolescent Medicine, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA
Background: Prior studies have found that natural mentoring relationships can be a significant protective factor for adolescents, but the role of natural mentors has not been explicitly examined among runaway homeless youth (RHY). This study explores the presence of important non-parental adults or natural mentors among RHY and associations with social connectedness, self-esteem, and health status.

Methods: Youth ages 14 21 who were currently homeless or have experienced homelessness in the past 12 months (N = 144) were recruited from community agencies that serve RHY. Participants completed audio computer-assisted interview (ACASI) surveys about natural mentors, connectedness, self-esteem, health risk behaviors, and health status. Descriptive, bivariate, and multiple regression analyses were conducted.

Results: Majority of participants (73.6%) reported having natural mentors; 41.9% non-kin, 26.4% kin, and 4.9% foster parents. Fifty-eight percent have known their mentors longer than one year and 45.8% connect with their mentors at least weekly. A natural mentoring relationship was associated with higher satisfaction in social support even with controlling for family connectedness. Those who were more connected with their mentors reported higher self-esteem, lower psychological distress, and higher levels of family connectedness.

Conclusion: Despite being marginalized, many RHY in this study are connected with non-parental adults who may serve as a critical source of social support. Findings have implications for public health nurses in promoting resilience among RHY by recognizing the contributions of important non-parental adults and exploring practices and policies to encourage meaningful connections among vulnerable youth and caring adults in the community.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related nursing
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe specific protective processes of natural mentoring relationships for runaway and homeless youth. 2. Discuss implications of the study's findings related to programmatic policies for runaway and homeless youth.

Keywords: Homeless, Adolescent Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I have extensive clinical experience with homeless youth and have been a public health nurse for numerous years.
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.