Mental Health of Homeless Youth: Moderation by Peer Victimization and Teacher Support

  • Jenna M. Armstrong
  • Caitlyn R. Owens
  • Mary E. Haskett
Original Article


The link between youth homelessness and mental health functioning was examined using state population-representative 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) data. The moderating role of victimization and perceived teacher support also was examined. Consistent with hypotheses, results indicated that homelessness was associated with greater mental health challenges, more victimization, and less teacher support. The association between homelessness and mental health was not moderated by perceived teacher support. However, victimization experiences served as a moderator such that more victimization exacerbated the effect of homelessness on mental health challenges. This study supports the utility of the YRBS for gaining understanding of the experiences and needs of youth experiencing homelessness and adds to the growing literature on predictors of individual differences in mental health functioning of these vulnerable youth.


Youth homelessness Mental health Teacher support Peer victimization Youth Risk Behavior Survey 


  1. 1.
    Terry MJ, Bedi G, Patel ND (2010) Healthcare needs of homeless youth in the United States. J Pediatr Sci 2:e17Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bender K, Ferguson K, Thompson SJ, Komlo CS, Pollio D (2010) Factors associated with trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder among homeless youth: the importance of transience. J Trauma Stress 23:161–168PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ferguson KM, Bender K, Thompson SJ (2013) Predictors of transience among homeless emerging adults. J Adolesc Res 29:213–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Merscham C, van Leeuwen JM, McGuire M (2009) Mental health and substance abuse indicators among homeless youth in Denver, Colorado. Child Welfare 88:93–110PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Weinreb LF, Buckner JC, Williams V, Nicholson J (2006) A comparison of the health and mental health status of homeless mothers in Worcester, Mass: 1993 and 2003. Am J Public Health 96:1444–1448CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    McGuire-Schwartz M, Small LA, Parker G, Kim, P, McKay M (2015) Relationships between caregiver violence exposure, caregiver depression, and youth behavioral health among homeless families. Res Soc Work Pract 25:587–594CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Cowan BA (2014) Trauma exposures and mental health outcomes among sheltered children and youth ages 6–18. In: Haskett ME, Perlman S, Cowan BA (eds) Supporting families experiencing homelessness: current practices and future directions. Springer, New York, pp 37–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Bender K, Brown SM, Thompson SJ, Ferguson KM, Langenderfer L (2015) Multiple victimizations before and after leaving home associated with PTSD, depression, and substance use disorder among homeless youth. Child Maltreatment 20:115–124CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Keeshin BR, Campbell K (2011) Screening homeless youth for histories of abuse: prevalence, enduring effects, and interest in treatment. Child Abuse Neglect 35:401–407CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Ryan K, Kilmer R, Cauce AM, Watanabe H, Hoyt D (2000) Psychological consequences of child maltreatment in homeless adolescents: untangling the unique effects of maltreatment and family environment. Child Abuse Neglect 24:333–352CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Anooshian LJ (2005) Violence and aggression in the lives of homeless children. J Fam Violence 20:373–387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Cutuli JJ (2017) Homelessness in high school: population-representative rates of self-reported homelessness, resilience, and risk in Philadelphia. Soc Work Res (submitted)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Perlman S, Willard J, Herbers JE, Cutuli JJ, Eyrich Garg KM (2014) Youth homelessness: prevalence and mental health correlates. J Soc Soc Work Res 5:361–377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Bassuk EL, Richard MK, Tsertsvadze (2015) The prevalence of mental illness in homeless children: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 52:86–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Yu M, North CS, LaVesser PD, Osborne VA, Spitznagel EL (2008) A comparison study of psychiatric and behavior disorders and cognitive ability among homeless and housed children. Commun Ment Health J 44:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Edidin JP, Ganim Z, Hunter SJ, Karnick NS (2012) The mental and physical health of homeless youth: a literature review. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev 43:354–375CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Milburn N, Liang A, Lee S, Rotheram-Borus R, Rosenthal D, Mallett S et al (2009) Who is doing well? A typology of newly homeless adolescents. J Commun Psychiatry 37:135–147Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Finkelhor D, Ormrod R, Turner H, Holt M (2009) Pathways to poly-victimization. Child Maltreatment 14:316–329CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Tyler KA, Beal MR (2010) The high-risk environment of homeless young adults: consequences for physical and sexual victimization. Violence Vict 25:101–115CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Heerde JA, Scholes-Balog KE, Hemphill SA (2015) Associations between youth homelessness, sexual offenses, sexual victimization, and sexual risk behaviors: a systematic literature review. Arch Sex Behav 44:181–212CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Stewart AJ, Steiman M, Cauce AM, Cochran BN, Whitbeck LB, Hoyt DR (2004) Victimization and posttraumatic stress disorder among homeless adolescents. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 43:325–331CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Barman-Adhikari A, Bowen E, Bender K, Brown S, Rice E (2016) A social capital approach to identifying correlated of perceived social support among homeless youth. Child Youth Care Forum 45:691–708CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Anooshian LJ (2003) Social isolation and rejection of homeless children. J Child Poverty 9:115–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Colarossi LG, Eccles JS (2003) Differential effects of support providers on adolescents’ mental health. Social Work Res 27:19–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Tennent JE, Demaray MK, Malecki CK, Terry MN, Clary M, Elzinga N (2015) Students’ ratings of teacher support and academic and social-emotional well-being. School Psychol Quart 30:494–512CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Chow KA, Mistry RS, Melchor VL (2015) Homelessness in the elementary school classroom: social and emotional consequences. Int J Qual Stud Educ 28:641–662CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Cheung C, Liu S, Lee T (2005) Parents, teachers, and peers and early adolescent runaway in Hong Kong. Adolescence 40:403–424PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Ferguson KM, Xie B (2012) Adult support and substance use among homeless youths who attend high school. Child Youth Care Forum 41:427–445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Tyler KA, Schmitz RM, Ray CM (2017) Role of social environmental protective factors on anxiety and depressive symptoms among Midwestern homeless youth. J Res Adolesc 32(6):1079–1095Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Dang MT, Conger KJ, Breslau J, Miller E (2014) Exploring protective factors among homeless youth: the role of natural mentors. J Health Care Poor Underserved 25:1121–1138CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Rattelade S, Farrell S, Aubry T, Klodawsky F (2014) The relationship between victimization and mental health functioning in homeless youth and adults. J Interpersonal Violence 29:1606–1622CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (2015) The 2015 annual homeless assessment report to congress. HUD Exchange, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    National Center for Homeless Education (2016). Federal data summary school years 2012-13 to 2014-15. Downloaded from:
  34. 34.
    Vaillancourt T, Brittain HL, McDougall P, Duku E (2013) Longitudinal links between childhood peer victimization, internalizing and externalizing problems, and academic functioning: developmental cascades. J Abnorm Child Psychol 41:1203–1215CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Furman W, Buhrmester D (1985) Children’s perceptions of the personal relationships in their social networks. Dev Psychol 21:1016–1024CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Pianta RC (2001) Student teacher relationship scale: professional manual. Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc, LutzGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jenna M. Armstrong
    • 1
  • Caitlyn R. Owens
    • 1
  • Mary E. Haskett
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

Personalised recommendations