Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 42, Issue 8, pp 1583–1591 | Cite as

Homeless Youths’ HIV Risk Behaviors with Strangers: Investigating the Importance of Social Networks

  • Kimberly A. Tyler
Original Paper


The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between homeless youths’ HIV risk behaviors with strangers and risk and protective characteristics of their social networks. Data were from the Social Network and Homeless Youth Project. A total of 249 youth aged 14–21 years were interviewed over 15 months in three Midwestern cities in the United States using a systematic sampling strategy. Multivariate results revealed that homeless youth with a greater average number of network members who engaged in more drug risk behaviors and who pressured them into precarious behaviors at least once were more likely to have participated in a greater number of HIV risk behaviors with strangers compared to homeless youth without such network characteristics. Additionally, 19–21 year olds, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered youth, and those who have run away from home more frequently, participated in more HIV risk behaviors with strangers than 14–18 year olds, heterosexual youth, and those who have run away less often. The final model explained 43 % of the variance in homeless youths’ HIV risk behaviors with strangers. It is important to identify network characteristics that are harmful to homeless youth because continued exposure to such networks and participation in dangerous behaviors may result in detrimental outcomes, including contraction of sexually transmitted infections and potentially HIV.


HIV risk Social networks Risk factors Protective factors Homeless youth Sexual orientation 



This article is based on research supported by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA021079), Dr. Kimberly A. Tyler, PI.


  1. Allen, D. M., Lehman, S., Green, T. A., Lindegren, M. L., Onorato, I. M., Forrester, W., & the Field Services Branch. (1994). HIV infection among homeless adults and runaway youth, United States, 1989–1992. AIDS, 8, 1593–1598.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, J. E., Freese, T. E., & Pennbridge, J. N. (1994). Sexual risk behavior and condom use among street youth in Hollywood. Family Planning Perspective, 26, 22–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bauman, K. E., & Ennett, S. T. (1996). On the importance of peer influence for adolescent drug use: Commonly neglected considerations. Addictions, 91, 185–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beaford, R. D., Gongaware, T. B., & Valadez, D. L. (2000). Social networks. In E. F. Borgatta & R. J. V. Montgomery (Eds.), Encyclopedia of sociology (2nd ed., pp. 2727–2735). New York: MacMillan Reference.Google Scholar
  5. Beech, B. M., Myers, L., & Beech, D. J. (2002). Hepatitis B and C infections among homeless adolescents. Family Community Health, 25, 28–36.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Cairns, R. B., Leung, M. C., & Cairns, B. D. (1995). Social networks over time and space in adolescence. In L. J. Crockett & A. C. Crouter (Eds.), Pathways through adolescence: Individual development in relation to social contexts (pp. 35–56). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  7. Cauce, A. M., Morgan, C. J., Wagner, V., Moore, E., Sy, J., Wurzbacher, K., et al. (1994). Effectiveness of intensive case management for homeless adolescents: Results of a 3-month follow-up. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 2, 219–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Center for American Progress. (2010). Gay and transgender youth homelessness by the numbers. Accessed 25 Jan 2013.
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011a). HIV among women. Accessed 25 Jan 2013.
  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011b). HIV among youth. Accessed 25 Jan 2013.
  11. Clatts, M. C., & Davis, W. R. (1999). A demographic and behavioral profile of homeless youth in New York City: Implications for AIDS outreach and prevention. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 13, 365–374.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Cotterell, J. (2007). Social networks in youth and adolescence (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.Google Scholar
  13. Ennett, S. T., Bailey, S. L., & Federman, E. B. (1999). Social network characteristics associated with risky behaviors among homeless and runaway youth. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 40, 63–78.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Ennett, S. T., & Bauman, K. E. (1994). The contribution of influence and selection to adolescent peer group homogeneity: The case of adolescent cigarette smoking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 653–663.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Fisher, J. D. (1988). Possible effects of reference group-based social influence on AIDS-risk behavior and AIDS prevention. American Psychologist, 43, 914–920.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Hagan, J., & McCarthy, B. (1997). Mean streets: Youth crime and homelessness. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Haynie, D. L., & Osgood, D. W. (2005). Reconsidering peers and delinquency: How do peers matter? Social Forces, 84, 1109–1130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Johnson, K. D., Whitbeck, L. B., & Hoyt, D. R. (2005). Predictors of social network composition among homeless and runaway adolescents. Journal of Adolescence, 28, 231–248.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Kaiser Family Foundation. (2007). HIV/AIDS policy fact sheet. Accessed 5 May 2012.
  20. Kipke, M. D., O’Connor, S., Palmer, R., & MacKenzie, R. G. (1995). Street youth in Los Angeles: Profile of a group at high risk for HIV. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 149, 513–519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kipke, M. D., Unger, J. B., Palmer, R. F., Iverson, E., & O’Connor, S. (1998). Association between self identified peer-group affiliation and HIV risk behaviors among street youth. In J. B. Greenberg & M. S. Neumann (Eds.), What we have learned from the AIDS evaluation of street outreach projects (pp. 61–82). Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control.Google Scholar
  22. Kral, A. H., Molnar, B. E., Booth, R. E., & Watters, J. K. (1997). Prevalence of sexual risk behavior and substance use among runaway and homeless adolescents in San Francisco, Denver, and New York City. International Journal of STD and AIDS, 8, 109–117.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund. (n.d.). Facts: Gay and lesbian youth in schools. Accessed 25 Jan 2013.
  24. Martinez, T. E., Gleghorn, A., Marx, R., Clements, K., Boman, M., & Katz, M. H. (1998). Psychosocial histories, social environment, and HIV risk behaviors of injection and noninjection drug using homeless youths. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 30, 1–10.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. McCaskill, P. A., Toro, P. A., & Wolfe, S. M. (1998). Homeless and matched housed adolescents: A comparative study of psychopathology. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 27, 306–319.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., & Cook, J. M. (2001). Birds of a feather: Homophily in social networks. Annual Review of Sociology, 27, 415–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Milburn, N. G., Rotheram-Borus, M. J., Batterham, P., Brumback, B., Rosenthal, D., & Mallett, S. (2005). Predictors of close family relationships over one year among homeless young people. Journal of Adolescence, 28, 263–275.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Molina, E. (2000). Informal non-kin networks among homeless Latino and African American men: Form and functions. American Behavioral Scientist, 43, 663–685.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Moon, M. W., McFarland, W., Kellogg, T., Baxter, M., Katz, M. H., MacKellar, D., et al. (2000). HIV risk behavior of runaway youth in San Francisco: Age of onset and relation to sexual orientation. Youth & Society, 32, 184–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. National Coalition for the Homeless. (2009). Fact Sheet: LGBT Homeless. Retrieved from
  31. Office of National AIDS Policy. Youth and HIV/AIDS 2000: A new American agenda.
  32. Owen, G., Heineman, J., Minton, C., Lloyd, B., Larsen, P., & Zierman, C. (1998). Minnesota statewide survey of persons without permanent shelter: Vol. II, Unaccompanied youth. St. Paul, MN: Wilder Foundation.Google Scholar
  33. Pfeifer, R. W., & Oliver, J. (1997). A study of HIV seroprevalence in a group of homeless youth in Hollywood, California. Journal of Adolescent Health, 20, 339–342.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Rak, C., & Patterson, L. (1996). Promoting resilience in at-risk children. Journal of Counseling and Development, 74, 368–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rice, E., Milburn, N. G., & Monro, W. (2011). Social networking technology, social network composition, and reductions in substance use among homeless adolescents. Prevention Scientist, 12, 80–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rice, E., Milburn, N. G., Rotheram-Borus, M. J., Mallet, S., & Rosenthal, D. (2005). The effects of peer group network properties on drug use among homeless youth. American Behavioral Scientist, 48, 1102–1123.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  37. Smith, H. (2008). Searching for kinship: The creation of street families among homeless youth. American Behavioral Scientist, 51, 756–771.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tyler, K. A. (2008). Social network characteristics and risky sexual and drug related behaviors among homeless young adults. Social Science Research, 37, 673–685.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Tyler, K. A., Hoyt, D. R., & Whitbeck, L. B. (2000a). The effects of early sexual abuse on later sexual victimization among female homeless and runaway youth. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 15, 235–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Tyler, K. A., & Johnson, K. A. (2006a). Pathways in and out of substance use among homeless-emerging adults. Journal of Adolescent Research, 21, 133–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tyler, K. A., & Johnson, K. A. (2006b). Trading sex: Voluntary or coerced? The experiences of homeless youth. Journal of Sex Research, 43, 208–216.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Tyler, K. A., & Whitbeck, L. B. (2004). Lost childhoods: Risk and resiliency among runaway and homeless adolescents. In P. Allen-Meares & M. W. Fraser (Eds.), Intervention with children and adolescents: An interdisciplinary perspective (pp. 378–397). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.Google Scholar
  43. Tyler, K. A., Whitbeck, L. B., Hoyt, D. R., & Yoder, K. A. (2000b). Predictors of self-reported sexually transmitted diseases among homeless and runaway adolescents. Journal of Sex Research, 37, 369–377.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  44. Unger, J. B., Kipke, M. D., Simon, T. R., Johnson, C. J., Montgomery, S. B., & Iverson, E. (1998). Stress, coping, and social support among homeless youth. Journal of Adolescent Research, 13, 134–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Woods, E. R., Samples, C. L., Melchiono, M. W., Keenan, P. M., Fox, D. J., & Harris, S. K. (2002). Initiation of services in the Boston HAPPENS Program: Human immunodeficiency virus-positive, homeless, and at-risk youth can access services. AIDS Patient Care and STDs, 16, 497–510. the Boston HAPPENS Program Collaborators.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of Nebraska-LincolnLincolnUSA

Personalised recommendations