Relationships Between Parenting and Dangerous Substance Use Behaviors among Youth Experiencing Homelessness

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Graduate School of Social Work


Homeless youth, Substance use, Illicit drug use, Parenting, Gender differences


Objective: Understanding patterns of dangerous and illicit substance use among young parents who are homeless may provide insight into how best to support this highly vulnerable group and their children. This study examines the relationship between having a biological child and drug use among youth experiencing homelessness. Method: We used 4 waves of cross-sectional data from 1,010 youths ages 14–26 at 3 drop-in agencies serving youth experiencing homeless in Los Angeles, CA. Among participants, 23.8% of males and 28.9% of females had a biological child. We conducted multivariate logistic regression models for males and females on 4 substance use behaviors in the past month: binge drinking, using hard/illicit drugs, prescription drug misuse, and injection drug use. Results: Fathers had greater odds of hard drug use, prescription drug misuse, and injection drug use than males without children. There was no significant relationship between having a child and any of the four substance use behaviors for females. Conclusions: Findings suggest that having a child is not associated with higher risk of dangerous or illicit substance use for females. Results highlight the need to proactively engage young males in pregnancy prevention, parenting programs, and substance use treatment and prevention.

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