Abstract: Longitudinal Predictors of Young Adult Homelessness: A Cross-National Study (Society for Prevention Research 27th Annual Meeting)

414 Longitudinal Predictors of Young Adult Homelessness: A Cross-National Study

Thursday, May 30, 2019
Pacific B/C (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
John Winston Toumbourou, PhD, Chair in Health Psychology, Deakin University Australia, Geelong, Australia
Homelessness is a multifaceted and significant social problem in Australia and internationally. Young people experiencing homelessness face substantial marginalization and are at-risk for entering pathways to long-term homelessness and poverty. Longitudinal studies examining the influence of adolescent risk and protective factors on homelessness among young adults are few, with most knowledge concerning risk factors for homelessness emerging from retrospective cross-sectional studies analyzing data from young people currently experiencing homelessness. Little is known about the effect of protective factors. It is unclear to what extent life-course pathways to adult homelessness are influenced by national policy context. The International Youth Development Study (IYDS) is uniquely suited to examine developmental pathways and adolescent predictors of young adult homelessness. The present study asks to what extent do early-mid adolescent risk and protective factors predict young adult homelessness, and whether the predictive nature of these factors is similar in Victoria (VIC), Australia and Washington State (WA) in the US.

Data are drawn from the IYDS, a gender-balanced, multiethnic, statewide representative sample of 7th grade students in VIC and WA in 2002 (n = 1,958). Data were collected at ages 13-15 and 25 (2014, 87% retention). Risk and protective factors (ages 13-15) spanned demographic, individual, family, peer-group, school and community spheres of influence. Past year homelessness at age 25 was measured using a self-report measure of having no regular place to live.

Higher rates of past year homelessness were reported by WA (5.24%), compared to VIC participants (3.25%). Although some cross-national differences in levels of demographic, individual, family, peer group, school and community predictors were found, cross-national comparisons showed these factors were equally predictive in the two states. In multivariate analyses, early adolescent predictors associated with young adult homelessness included school suspension (Adjusted Odds Ratio [AOR] = 2.76) and academic failure (AOR = 1.94). No significant protective effects were found.

Prevention and intervention efforts that support adolescent academic engagement may help in addressing young adult homelessness. The similar cross-national profile of demographic, individual, family, peer group, school and community predictors suggest programs seeking to support academic engagement may influence developmental pathways to homelessness into young adulthood in both nations. The similarity in life-course pathways suggests the USA and Australia can profitably translate prevention and intervention efforts to reduce homelessness while continuing to identify predictors modifiable to change.