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Adolescent Antecedents of Young Adult Homelessness: a Cross-national Path Analysis


Adolescent and young adult health, development, and behavior lay a foundation for future population health. Increasing rates of young adult homelessness mean there is a need for research which generates evidence to support a stronger focus on population-level prevention. Using longitudinal data from a population-based sample of young adults participating in the cross-nationally matched International Youth Development Study, we examined adolescent antecedents of young adult homelessness in Washington State in the USA and in Victoria, Australia. Participants were surveyed using a modified version of the Communities That Care youth survey. Analyses of prospective, longitudinal data from 1945 participants, recruited as state-representative secondary school samples at grade 7 (average age 13, 2002) and longitudinally compared at young adulthood (average age 25, 2014), showed that young adults in Washington State reported higher rates of past year homelessness (5.24%) compared to those in Victoria (3.25%). Path modeling showed less positive family management strategies at age 13 uniquely increased risk for age 25 homelessness. This effect remained after accounting for age 15 antecedents in peer-group, school, and community environments. Friends’ drug use, school suspension, academic failure, and low neighborhood attachment at age 15 mediated the association between less positive family management strategies at age 13 and age 25 homelessness. Despite observing some cross-national differences in levels of family, peer-group, school, and community antecedents, we found that these factors equally increased risk for age 25 homelessness in both states, suggesting similar cross-national influences for young adult homelessness. The findings indicate cross-nationally common adolescent antecedents for young adult homelessness that could be targeted by prevention strategies across international settings.

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The authors express their appreciation to project staff and participants.


Dr. Heerde was supported by funding from a University of Melbourne, Melbourne Research Fellowship at the time this paper was written. Dr Heerde is grateful for support from the Westpac Scholars Trust (Research Fellowship, 2017–2020). The authors are grateful for the financial support of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01DA012140), National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (R01AA017188), Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC; 491241, 594793, 1047902) and Australian Research Council (DP109574, DPO663371, DPO877359). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funders. The funding agencies did not have any involvement in the analysis and interpretation of data, the writing of the article or the submission of the article for publication.

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Correspondence to Jessica A. Heerde.

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The University of Melbourne Human Ethics in Research Committee and the Royal Children’s Hospital Ethics in Human Research Committee in Victoria and the University of Washington Human Subjects Institutional Review Board in Washington State approved the study. All procedures performed in the studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of these institutions and the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual study participants.

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Heerde, J.A., Bailey, J.A., Toumbourou, J.W. et al. Adolescent Antecedents of Young Adult Homelessness: a Cross-national Path Analysis. Prev Sci 23, 85–95 (2022).

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  • Homelessness
  • Adolescents
  • Young adults
  • Cross-state study
  • Risk factors
  • Prevention