Begun, S., Barman-Adhikari, A., O’Connor, C., & Rice, E. (2020). Social support and pregnancy attitudes among youth experiencing homelessness. Children & Youth Services Review, 113. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2020.104959
Youth experiencing homelessness demonstrate high rates of pregnancy and pregnancy involvement. Some homeless youth such as homeless women view pregnancy positively; research has depicted this group’s pro-pregnancy attitudes as a function of youth being in desperate need of resources, such as money, food, clothing, housing, and healthcare. However, knowledge of the association between youths’ receipt of specific sources and types of social support and their pregnancy attitudes is limited. The study’s core focus was to examine whether specific forms of social support (informational, instrumental, emotional), provided by youths’ social network members (street-based peers, home-based peers, family members, service providers, serious partners), are associated with youths’ pro-pregnancy attitude endorsements.
- Prior studies have shown that 20–40% of homeless youth are actively interested in becoming pregnant
- Pregnancy and parenting have been described by this group as motivating factors for the incorporation of positive life changes, such as finishing school, reducing substance use, or obtaining housing and employment
- Youths’ pregnancy views are likely influenced by the attitudes and behaviors exhibited by those around them and the social support offered
- Youth were more likely to hold pro- pregnancy attitudes if they felt a greater commitment to a serious romantic partner, and if they listed a larger number of family members as comprising their social networks
- Social capital has been described as the capacity for an individual to obtain resources and other benefits simply by being a member of a given social network
- Bonding capital, among homeless youth, equates to connecting with other street-based peers while bridging capital epitomizes youths’ relationships to home-based and pro-social individuals.
- Secondary survey and social network data were analyzed from a larger study; cross-sectional quantitative data were obtained from homeless youth aged 13-25 years (n = 1046)
- Data collection took place at two drop-in centers in Los Angeles, California.
- The majority of the sample were male (n = 729, 72.7%) while females comprised of 27.3% of the sample and White individuals were the largest racial group (n = 393).
- The survey consisted of two parts: (1) an audio computer-assisted self-interview (ACASI), which included sociodemographic questions and items pertaining to attitudes and behaviors specific to each respondent; and (2) a face-to-face social network interview (F2F-SNI), which inquired about individuals nominated by youth as comprising their social networks, including nominees’ characteristics, attitudes, and behaviors.
- Data analyses were conducted using SAS Version 9.4 and SPSS Version 23.0.
Discussion and findings
- At least one home-based peer provided emotional support to 69.4% of youth, 44.4% of youth discussed receiving instrumental support and 16.7% reported receiving informational support from friends and family
- A total of 40.4% of youth endorsed pro-pregnancy attitudes
- Longer homelessness duration, prior pregnancy involvement and instrumental support from a serious partner were significantly associated with an increased likelihood of pro-pregnancy attitude endorsement
- It was found that informational support from family members, home-based peers, and street-based peers significantly reduces the likelihood of pro-pregnancy attitude endorsement
- Continued contact with pro-social peers, such as those regularly attending school, may motivate homeless youth in achieving their education-related goals
- Instrumentally supportive relationships with staff members or service providers were also significantly associated with a lower likelihood of pro-pregnancy attitudes among the youth. Living in a shelter environment has been shown to predict having more friends and reduced engagement in detrimental behaviors.
- The cross-sectional design does not allow for causal inferences to be made.
- The sample consisted of only service-seeking youth, which hinders the ability to generalize the findings to youth disconnected or disengaged from services
- Prevention and intervention efforts should not only engage homeless youth, but also their surrounding social networks in promoting healthy behaviors
- Service providers might consider mobilizing contact with family members that are identified as playing positive roles in the youths’ lives
- Mentorship programs could be explored to further engage service providers. Adult mentors who have navigated similar circumstances in their own lives, such as homelessness, pregnancy, and parenting, could facilitate vital sources of support and guidance
- Prevention and education efforts to engage young women who may be capable of becoming pregnant and their partners would be effective to help with their decision-making processes