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Keywords:

  • homeless young women;
  • pregnancy;
  • parenting;
  • motherhood;
  • mental health;
  • substance use;
  • Midwest;
  • Midwest Longitudinal Study of Homeless Adolescents;
  • major depressive episode;
  • posttraumatic stress disorder;
  • lifetime antisocial personality disorder

Pregnancy rates among young women who are homeless are significantly higher than rates among housed young women in the United States (J. M. Greene & C. L. Ringwalt, 1998). Yet, little research has addressed mental health or risk and resilience among young mothers who are homeless. Based on a sample from the Midwest Longitudinal Study of Homeless Adolescents, this study explores pregnancy and motherhood in unaccompanied homeless young women over a period of 3 years. The data are supplemented by in-depth interviews with a subset of young women. Results show that almost half (46.4%) of sexually active young women who are homeless (= 222, Mage = 17.2) had been pregnant at baseline. Among those who stated they had children between Waves 2 and 13 (= 90), only half reported caring for their children consistently over time, and one fifth reported never seeing their children. Of the participants with children in their care at the last interview (Wave 13), almost one third met criteria for lifetime major depressive episode, lifetime posttraumatic stress disorder, and lifetime drug abuse, and half met criteria for lifetime antisocial personality disorder. Twelve-month diagnoses are also reported. The impacts of homelessness on maternal and child outcomes are discussed.