Skip to main content Accessibility help

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



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.



Hide All

Correspondence should be sent to Mee Young Um at 669 W. 34th St, Los Angeles CA 90089-0411 or via e-mail at



Hide All
Bender, K., Thompson, S. J., McManus, H., Lantry, J., & Flynn, P. M. (2007). Capacity for survival: Exploring strengths of homeless street youth. Child Youth Care Forum, 36 (1), 2542.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). 2011 State and local youth risk behavior survey. Retrieved from
D'Amico, E. J., Miles, J. N., Stern, S. A., & Meredith, L. S. (2008). Brief motivational interviewing for teens at risk of substance use consequences: A randomized pilot study in a primary care clinic. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 35 (1), 5361.
Ennett, S. T., Bailey, S. L., & Federman, E. B. (1999). Social network characteristics associated with risky behaviors among runaway and homeless youth. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 40 (1), 6378.
Esparza, N. (2009). Community factors influencing the prevalence of homeless youth services. Children and Youth Services Review, 31 (12), 13211329.
Ferguson, K. M., Bender, K., & Thompson, S. J. (2014). Predictors of transience among homeless emerging adults. Journal of Adolescent Research, 29 (2), 213240.
Ferguson, K. M., Bender, K., Thompson, S., Xie, B., & Pollio, D. (2011). Correlates of street-survival behaviors in homeless young adults in four U.S. cities. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 81 (3), 401409.
Ferguson, K. M., Jun, J., Bender, K., Thompson, S., & Pollio, D. (2010). A comparison of addiction and transience among street youth: Los Angeles, California, Austin, Texas, and St. Louis, Missouri. Community Mental Health Journal, 46 (3), 296307.
Freeman, L. C., & Webster, C. M. (1994). Interpersonal proximity in social and cognitive space. Social Cognition, 12 (3), 223247.
German, D., Davey, M. A., & Latkin, C. A. (2007). Residential transience and HIV risk behaviors among injection drug users. AIDS Behavior, 11 (Suppl 2), S21S30.
Gomez, R., Thompson, S. J., & Barczyk, A. (2010). Factors associated with substance use among homeless young adults. Substance Abuse, 31 (1), 2434.
Green, H. D., Haye, K., Tucker, J. S., & Golinelli, D. (2013). Shared risk: Who engages in substance use with American homeless youth? Addiction, 108 (9), 16181624.
Greene, J. M., Ennett, S. T., & Ringwalt, C. L. (1997). Substance use among runaway and homeless youth in three national samples. American Journal of Public Health, 87 (2), 229235.
Hahn, J. A., Page-Shafer, K., Ford, J., Paciorek, A., & Lum, P. J. (2008). Traveling young injection users at high risk for acquisition and transmission of viral infections. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 93 (1–2), 4350.
Heckathorn, D. D. (1997). Respondent-driven sampling: A new approach to the study of hidden populations. Social Problems, 44 (2), 174199.
Hosmer, D., & Lemeshow, S. (2000). Applied logistic regression (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Wiley-Interscience.
Johnson, K. D., Whitbeck, L. B., & Hoyt, D. R. (2005). Predictors of social network composition among homeless and runaway adolescents. Journal of Adolescence, 28 (2), 231248.
Kipke, M. D., Montgomery, S. B., Simon, T. R., & Iverson, E. F. (1997). “Substance Abuse'' Disorders among runaway and homeless youth. Substance Use & Misuse, 32 (7–8), 969986.
Koopman, C., Rosario, M. & Rotheram-Borus, M. J. (1994). Alcohol and drug use and sexual behaviors placing runaways at risk for HIV infection. Addictive Behavior, 19 (1), 95103.
Lankenau, S. E., Sanders, B., Bloom, J. J., Hathazi, D., Alarcon, E., Tortu, S., & Clatts, M. C. (2008). Migration patterns and substance use among young homeless travelers. In Geography and drug addiction (pp. 6583). Netherlands: Springer.
Marsden, P. V. (2005). Recent developments in network measurement. In Carrington, P. J., Scott, J., & Wasserman, S. (Eds.), Models and methods in social network analysis. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Martijn, C., & Sharpe, L. (2006). Pathways to youth homelessness. Social Science & Medicine, 62 (1), 112.
Martino, S. C., Tucker, J. S., Ryan, G., Wenzel, S. L., Golinelli, D., & Munjas, B. (2011). Increased substance use and risky sexual behavior among migratory homeless youth: Exploring the role of social network composition. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40 (12), 16341648.
McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., & Cook, J. M. (2001). Birds of a feather: Homophily in social networks. Annual Review of Sociology, 27, 415444.
Rice, E., Barman-Adhikari, A., Milburn, N. G., & Monro, W. (2012). Position-specific HIV risk in a large network of homeless youth. American Journal of Public Health, 102 (1), 141147.
Rice, E., Milburn, N. G., & Monro, W. (2011). Social networking technology, social network composition, and reductions in substance use among homeless adolescents. Prevention Science, 12 (1), 8088.
Rice, E., Milburn, N. G. & Rotheram-Borus, M. J. (2007). Pro-social and problematic social network influences on HIV/AIDS risk behaviors among newly homeless youth in Los Angeles. AIDS Care: Psychological and Sociomedical Aspects of AIDS/HIV, 19 (5), 697704.
Rice, E., Milburn, N. G., Rotheram-Borus, M. J., Mallett, S., & Rosenthal, D. (2005). The effects of peer group network properties on drug use among homeless youth. American Behavioral Scientist, 48 (8), 11021123.
Rice, E., & Rhoades, H. (2013). How should network-based prevention for homeless youth be implemented? Addiction, 108 (9), 16251626.
Salomonsen-Sautel, S., Van Leeuwen, J. M., Gilroy, C. G., Boyle, S., Malberg, D., & Hopfer, C. (2008). Correlates of substance use among homeless youths in eight cities. The American Journal on Addictions, 17 (3), 224234.
Sanders, B., Lankenau, S. E., Jackson-Bloom, J., & Hathazi, D. (2008). Multiple drug use and polydrug use amongst homeless traveling youth. Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, 7 (1), 2340.
Toro, P. A., Dworsky, A., & Fowler, P. J. (2007). Homeless youth in the United States: Recent research findings and intervention approaches. Retrieved from
Tyler, K. A. (2008). Social network characteristics and risky sexual and drug related behaviors among homeless young adults. Social Science Research, 37 (2), 673685.
Tyler, K. A., & Johnson, K. A. (2006). Pathways in and out of substance use among homeless-emerging adults. Journal of Adolescent Research, 21 (2), 133157.
Valente, T. W. (2010). Social networks and health: Models, methods, and applications. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Wenzel, S. L., Tucker, J. S., Golinelli, D., Green, H. D. Jr., & Zhou, A. (2010). Personal network correlates of alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use among homeless youth. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 112 (0), 140149.



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed