Factors associated with trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder among homeless youth in three U.S. cities: The importance of transience


  • Funding for this study was provided in Los Angeles by the Haynes Foundation, in Denver by the University of Denver, School of Social Work, and in St. Louis by the Center for Mental Health Services Research, George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis. We would like to acknowledge Jina Jun, MA, from the University of Texas at Austin, Gretchen Heidemann, MSW, from the University of Southern California School of Social Work, Jennifer McClendon, PhD, from George Warren Brown School of Social Work, and Daniela Young, from the University of Denver for their involvement in the study as research assistants.


Homeless youth experience disproportionately high rates of trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This study examined correlates of trauma and PTSD among homeless youth with a focus on the impact of homeless culture, substance addiction, and mental health challenges. Homeless youth (N = 146) from Los Angeles, California, Denver, Colorado, and St. Louis, Missouri, were recruited from organizations providing services to homeless youth using comparable methods. Results indicate that 57% of respondents had experienced a traumatic event and 24% met criteria for PTSD. A multinomial logistic regression model revealed greater transience, alcohol addiction, mania, and lower self-efficacy predicted PTSD whereas trauma exposure was associated with alcohol addiction only. Findings have implications for screening and intervening with traumatized homeless youth across service settings.