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J Adolesc. 2019 Jan;70:43-52. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2018.11.006. Epub 2018 Dec 4.

It can be beautiful or destructive: Street-involved youth's perceptions of their romantic relationships and resilience.

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York University, 5022 TEL, 4700 Keele St., Toronto ON, M3J 1P3, Canada. Electronic address:
York University, 5022 TEL, 4700 Keele St., Toronto ON, M3J 1P3, Canada. Electronic address:



This study examined romantic relationships among street-involved youth through the overlapping perspectives of resilience, attachment and social bonding. The main goal was to assess how youth understand their romantic attachment bonds as supporting or undermining resilience. While there are qualitative reports on how the social relationships of street-involved youth are linked to resilience, romantic relationships have yet to be differentiated with regard to resilience. This paper also builds on existing research by providing further information on the characteristics of their romantic relationships, and the impact of street life and risky behaviours within relationships.


Twenty-one youth (11 men and 10 women) in shelters, in a Canadian metropolitan city, aged 16-24 years, participated in semi-structured interviews. A thematic analysis of the data was conducted exploring how the youth understand their romantic attachments as well as their links in supporting or undermining resilience.


Results indicated that connection, support, validation, and encouragement within a relationship were of value to the youth's resilience, in the form of addressing drug use, achieving goals, supporting self-worth, and promoting positive coping. The youth also reported many negative experiences within their romantic relationships, including dating violence and the stress of street-life, which they saw as undermining their resilience. A key finding was that the youth had considerable difficulty integrating the positive and negative aspects of their relationships. Overall the findings highlight the co-occurrence of positive and negative romantic experiences, and support the importance of developing healthy relationship programs for street-involved youth. Key words: street-involved; homeless; youth; romantic relationship; resilience; dating violence.

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