Children at Risk: The Case of Latin American Street Youth
Children and adolescents who spend their time in street settings unaccompanied by adults (i.e., street youth) represent a subgroup of children growing up in situations of vulnerability. Despite experiencing high levels of adversity, research indicates that many street youth report levels of well-being comparable to those reported by their housed counterparts. This chapter asks, “How can street youth maintain positive functioning given their objective living conditions?” To resolve the contradiction between the objective reality in which street youth live their lives and the way that many of them experience and describe their situation, we propose a conceptual model, and use it to organize research findings, focusing in particular on studies conducted in Latin America. The model integrates elements of three key developmental perspectives: Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model, a stress and coping framework, and the resilience construct. We argue that, ultimately, a full understanding of the situation of street youth requires examining both their subjective and objective well-being and exploring the extent to which their current situation supports positive development in the long term. It is our hope that future research guided by the proposed conceptual model can contribute to improving research, practice, and policy.
KeywordsLife Satisfaction Homeless Youth Mental Health Difficulty Street Child Street Youth
Manuscript preparation was supported in part by USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch Grant # 600108-793000-793323 (to M. Raffaelli); by grants from CNPq to N. A. de Morais (Edital Universal 14/2011) and to S. H. Koller; and by a grant from the Jacobs Foundation to S. H. Koller and M. Raffaelli.
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