Influence of traveling youth and substance use behaviors in the social networks of homeless youth

Mee Young Um, Eric Rice, Harmony Rhoades, Hailey Winetrobe, Natalie Bracken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


Traveling homeless youth (i.e., youth who migrate from city to city, after a short period of time) exhibit elevated levels of risky substance use behaviors compared to non-traveling youth. Using sociometric data, we examined the characteristics of homeless youth who are connected to at least one traveler and how at least one connection to travelers was associated with substance use of travelers and non-travelers. Data were collected from 386 homeless youth at two drop-in centers in Los Angeles, CA. Results indicated that, comparing to what would be expected by chance, youth who reported at least one connection to travelers were more likely to use substances, more travelers reported at least one tie to another traveler, and more substance-using travelers reported at least one tie to other substance-using travelers. Multivariate analyses revealed that binge drinking and marijuana use were associated with homeless youth reporting connections to at least one substance-using traveler. Injection drug use was associated with reporting at least one connection to an injection drug user, regardless of traveler status, once we controlled for demographic characteristics and traveler status. We suggest the need for substance-using traveler-specific services using brief one-on-one interventions to prevent further engagement in risky substance use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-47
Number of pages20
JournalNetwork Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Externally publishedYes



  • homeless youth
  • social networks
  • sociometric data
  • substance use
  • travelers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science

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