Date of this Version
Objective: This study investigated factors associated with alcohol use among homeless and runaway adolescents, using a risk amplification model.
Method: Homeless and runaway adolescents (N = 536, 60% female) were recruited and interviewed by outreach workers directly on the streets, in shelters and in drop-in centers in four Midwestern states. The average age was 16 years; ages ranged from 12 to 22.
Results: Parent alcohol problems were indirectly linked to adolescent drinking through familial abuse and its relationship to deviant peers, time on own and risky subsistence behaviors. Parent alcohol problems also predicted offspring alcohol use through parental rejection and its association with deviant peers and with risky subsistence behaviors. The strongest direct effects on alcohol use were hanging out with antisocial friends and participating in deviant behaviors in order to survive on the street.
Conclusions: This study sheds light on the nature of alcohol use in a high-risk population. Family background and “on-the-street” (time on own) factors must be taken into consideration when treating alcohol misuse in street youth. The alternative is a vicious cycle whereby homeless youth may become homeless adults.