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Child Abuse Negl. 2011 Jun;35(6):401-7. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2011.01.015. Epub 2011 Jun 8.

Screening homeless youth for histories of abuse: prevalence, enduring effects, and interest in treatment.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.



To identify the incidence of self-reported physical and sexual child abuse among homeless youth, the self-perceived effects of past abuse, and current interest in treatment for past abuse among homeless youth with histories of abuse.


Homeless and street-involved persons aged 18-23 filled out a questionnaire and participated in a structured assessment of histories of abuse, tobacco use and substance abuse.


Sixty-four homeless youth in Salt Lake City, Utah completed the study, 43 males and 21 females. Eighty-four percent screened positive for childhood physical and/or sexual abuse occurring before the age of 18; 42% screened positive for both physical and sexual abuse; 72% reported still being affected by their abuse. Among all abuse victims, 44% were interested in treatment for their abuse history and 62% of homeless youth who reported still being affected by their abuse were interested in treatment. Individuals were more likely to be interested in treatment if they were female, had not completed high school or had been previously asked about family dysfunction. Many victims who declined treatment offered spontaneous insight into their decision. Interest in treatment was similar to interest in treatment for other behaviors such as smoking and substance abuse.


Histories of abuse are common among homeless youth. A majority of those reporting a history of abuse are still affected by their abuse. Interest in treatment for a history of abuse was comparable to interest in treatment for other morbidities in the homeless youth population such as tobacco use and substance abuse. Our finding that homeless youth continue to be impacted by their abuse and are interested in treatment should prompt more screening for histories of abuse.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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