Explaining homeless youths' criminal justice interactions: Childhood trauma or surviving life on the streets?

Jamie Rae Yoder, Kimberly Bender, Sanna J. Thompson, Kristin M. Ferguson, Badiah Haffejee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Homeless youth are at increased risk for involvement in the criminal justice system. This study investigated childhood trauma as a risk factor for arrest or jail among a sample of youth seeking services at drop in, shelter, and transitional housing settings, while controlling for more established risk factors including: substance use, peer deviance, and engagement in survival behaviors. Standardized and researcher developed measures collected quantitative data through face-to-face interviews with youth (N = 202). Two sequential logic regression models identified significant predictors of arrest and jail, with a particular interest in the effects of childhood maltreatment. Youth with a history of physical abuse were nearly twice as likely to be arrested and to be jailed compared to non-abused youth, controlling for the significant influence of drug use and survival behaviors. These findings suggest the need for trauma screening and trauma-informed services for homeless youth at risk of illegal behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-144
Number of pages10
JournalCommunity Mental Health Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Criminal justice system
  • Homeless youth
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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