Online Program

Trauma and mental health of gang involved homeless youth

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Robin Petering, MSW, School of Social Work, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Eric Rice, PhD, School of Social Work, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Introduction: Annual statistics estimate that there are 1.6 million homeless youths and 1.4 million gang members in the US. Experiences of homelessness and gang membership are both known determinants of increased rates of trauma experiences and poor mental health. Yet, almost no empirical research has examined the intersection between these populations.

Methods: Los Angeles area homeless youth (N=505) were asked a series of questions including if they identify as a gang member or if they are gang affiliated (i.e. have a gang member relative, romantic partner or close friend). Multivariable logistic regressions controlling for age, race, gender, sexual orientation, current living situation and city of origin tested the overall effect of membership or affiliation compared to non-gang involved homeless youth.

Results: Within the sample, 17% were gang members and 46% were gang affiliated. Both gang members and affiliates were more likely to report symptoms of depression, PTSD, experiences of sexual abuse and family violence compared to non-involved youth. Gang members were more likely to ever attempt suicide, recently experience partner violence and report childhood physical abuse.

Conclusions: It is clear that gang involvement for homeless youth is related to many negative outcomes and that self-identifying as a gang member is just as impactful as being affiliated with a gang member. Given the lack of knowledge on the intersection between youth homelessness and gang involvement, the results emphasize the need to prioritize future research in this field to inform policies and programs that can address the specific needs of this population.

Learning Areas:

Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Assess the relationship between mental health and gang-involvement for homeless youth. Identify the difference in risk of identifying as a gang member or a gang affiliate compared to non-gang involved homeless youth. Inform future research and intervention strategies for mental health care among gang-involved homeless youth

Keyword(s): Homelessness, Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to be an abstract author of this content as aI have been a research assistant on this large scale research project for 4 years now and I am a PhD candidate at a top-research university.
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.