Correlates of street-survival behaviors in homeless young adults in four U.S. cities

Kristin M. Ferguson, Kimberly Bender, Sanna Thompson, Bin Xie, David Pollio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


This study assessed the prevalence and correlates of behaviors used by homeless young people to survive on the streets. Survival behaviors include prostitution, selling blood or plasma, dealing drugs, stealing, and panhandling. One hundred ninety-six homeless young adults from 4 metropolitan areas-Los Angeles, CA (n=50); Austin, TX (n=50); Denver, CO (n=50); and St. Louis, MO (n=46)-participated in individual, semistructured, face-to-face interviews. Researchers predicted that youth transience would be related to high rates of survival behaviors. Multivariate logistic regression was used to test a model predicting relationships between survival behaviors and transience, employment, substance use, and social support. Young adults who were transient, unemployed, drug-addicted, and reliant on peers for help were more likely to use these survival behaviors. In addition, among the transient subsample, being White, more reliant on peers for help, more transient, and having been victimized were associated with high use of these survival behaviors. Identification of the environmental and demographic factors associated with survival behaviors suggests that there may be value in combining harm-reduction strategies with efforts to reduce the transience of homeless young adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-409
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Drug addiction
  • Employment
  • Homeless young adults
  • Peer connectedness
  • Substance abuse
  • Survival behaviors
  • Transience
  • Victimization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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