Vulnerability in homeless adolescents: concept analysis


  • Caroline Dorsen

    1. Caroline Dorsen MSN FNP-BC RN
      Instructor and Coordinator
      Adult Primary Care Master’s and Post-Master’s Programs, New York University College of Nursing, New York, New York, USA
    Search for more papers by this author

C. Dorsen: e-mail:


dorsen c. (2010) Vulnerability in homeless adolescents: concept analysis. Journal of Advanced Nursing66(12), 2819–2827.


Aim.  This paper is a report of an analysis of the concept of vulnerability in homeless adolescents.

Background.  Caring for vulnerable populations and reduction of health inequities are top international healthcare priorities. Homeless adolescents experience health disparities as compared to their housed counterparts and are among the most vulnerable of all populations. Understanding the concept of vulnerability as it relates to the homeless adolescent population will assist nurses in addressing the health and social concerns of this population.

Data sources.  The PubMed, Medline, Cochrane and CINAHL electronic databases were used to search for research papers published between 1980 and 2009. The keywords ‘vulnerable’, ‘vulnerability’ and ‘homeless’, ‘adolescent’, ‘street’ and ‘youth’ were used. Twenty-three papers from multiple disciplines were reviewed in an effort to arrive at a global definition of homeless adolescents’ vulnerability.

Method.  Rodgers’ evolutionary method of concept analysis was used for the analysis.

Results.  Based on this analysis, vulnerability in homeless adolescents is defined as the constellation of past, present and future risk, perceived or real, because of the common human experience of risk, the increased vulnerability of the adolescent period, the consequences of family disruption, and the increased risks of life on the street.

Conclusion.  There was agreement in the literature regarding the antecedents, attributes, consequences and surrogate terms of the concept. However, differentiation between the concepts of risk and vulnerability, as suggested by seminal nurse researchers, was not supported. More research is needed into self-perceptions of vulnerability and vulnerability in subgroups of homeless adolescents.