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J Soc Serv Res. 2013 Jan 1;39(1):38-49.

An Ecological Systems Comparison Between Homeless Sexual Minority Youths and Homeless Heterosexual Youths.

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School of Social Work, University of Wisconsin-Madison.


This study examined risk and protective outcomes by comparing homeless sexual minority youths to heterosexual homeless youths regarding family, peer behaviors, school, mental health (suicide risk and depression), stigma, discrimination, substance use, and sexual risk behaviors. Structured interviews (N = 147) were conducted with individuals ages 16-24 at three drop-in programs serving homeless youths in Toronto. Bivariate analyses indicated statistically significant differences between homeless sexual minorities (n=66) and their heterosexual counterparts (n=81) regarding all variables: family, peer behaviors, stigma, discrimination, mental health, substance use and sexual risk behaviors with the exception of school belonging. Specifically, homeless sexual minority youths fared more poorly (e.g. lower satisfaction with family communication, experienced more stigma, used more drugs and alcohol) than their heterosexual counterparts. Improving family communication may be a worthwhile intervention if the youths are still in contact with their families. Future research should focus on victimization in the context of multiple systems.


Bisexual; Discrimination; Ecological Systems Theory; Family; Gay; Homeless; Lesbian; Mental Health; School; Sexual Behavior; Stigma; Substance Use; Transgender

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