Family Conflict and Violence

Youth experiencing homelessness and runaway youth consistently identify family conflict as the primary reason for homelessness and they experience more conflict at home than their peers.1 These youth experience higher rates of serious violence,2 child abuse, and neglect.3

  • Research suggests that it is longstanding issues of conflict, not one issue that arises before leaving home,4 that cause the most serious problems.
  • Almost 90 percent of runaway youth in shelters run by the Family Youth Service Bureau (FYSB) and 75.5 percent in residential programs reported family dynamics as critical issues leading to their homelessness.5
  • Youth affected by homelessness experience high rates of physical and sexual abuse. Rates of sexual abuse tend to cluster in a range from 21 percent to 42 percent among youth who experience homelessness, significantly higher than the estimated one to three percent in the general population.6
  • Additionally, 41 percent of youth attribute running away to poor relationships with parents, while only 7 percent of parents report the same.7

Prevention efforts to minimize family conflict and violence may include family-focused prevention programs including support groups for parents, parenting skills classes, and conflict resolution skills.8

Resources

Homelessness Resource Center: Homeless Populations
The Homelessness Resource Center, supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is an interactive community of providers, consumers, policymakers, researchers, and public agencies at federal, state, and local levels. The Center shares state-of-the-art knowledge and promising practices to prevent and end homelessness through the following:

  • Training and technical assistance
  • Publications and materials
  • Online learning opportunities
  • Networking and collaboration

The Center includes a section focused specifically on youth.

Chapin Hall: Young People Experience Significant Disruption and Loss Both Before and During Their Homelessness
This report from Chapin Hall discusses findings from the largest qualitative study done with youth experiencing homelessness, looking into the hardships that occur before and during homelessness.

References

1 Whitbeck et al., 2002
2 Whitbeck et al., 2002
3 Toro, Dworsky, & Fowler, 2007;
4 Whitbeck et al, 2002
5 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008
6 Greene et al., 2002; Whitbeck et al, 2002
7 Sayfer, Thompson, Maccio, Zittel-Palamara, & Forehand, 2004
8 Toro, Dworsky, & Fowler, 2007

Other Resources on this Topic

Collaboration Profiles

Youth Briefs

How Individualized Education Program (IEP) Transition Planning Makes a Difference for Youth with Disabilities

Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.

Youth Transitioning to Adulthood: How Holding Early Leadership Positions Can Make a Difference

Research links early leadership with increased self-efficacy and suggests that leadership can help youth to develop decision making and interpersonal skills that support successes in the workforce and adulthood. In addition, young leaders tend to be more involved in their communities, and have lower dropout rates than their peers. Youth leaders also show considerable benefits for their communities, providing valuable insight into the needs and interests of young people

How Trained Service Professionals and Self-Advocacy Makes a Difference for Youth with Mental Health, Substance Abuse, or Co-occurring Issues

Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.

Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care: Challenges and Solutions

Nearly 30,000 youth aged out of foster care in Fiscal Year 2009, which represents nine percent of the young people involved in the foster care system that year. This transition can be challenging for youth, especially youth who have grown up in the child welfare system.

Coordinating Systems to Support Transition Age Youth with Mental Health Needs

Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.

Civic Engagement Strategies for Transition Age Youth

Civic engagement has the potential to empower young adults, increase their self-determination, and give them the skills and self-confidence they need to enter the workforce. Read about one youth’s experience in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).