Homeless young adults : an exploratory study examining resiliency and coping
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This dissertation study sought to explore the hidden resilience among a homeless young adult population (ages 18-24). The majority of research conducted on homeless young adults remains limited to examining their multiple challenges and risk factors. While the high rates of substance use issues, mental health problems and trauma implicit in their lives warrant attention, research on the unconventional resilience of this group may enable service providers to better understand their unique needs. Recently researchers have begun to address the strengths and unique personal capabilities of this population. This dissertation follows this trend and utilizes the social estrangement model as a conceptual framework to examine predictors of resilience. Variables were examined within the context of four domains implicit in the social estrangement model that represent the amount of estrangement that exists in the lives of homeless young adults. The four domains explored within this conceptual framework included, institutional disaffiliation, psychological functioning, human capital and identification with the homeless culture. Findings from this study revealed that homeless young adults' self-esteem and optimistic perspectives of the future predicted higher resiliency, while drug dependency predicted lower resiliency. Additionally, homeless young adults' coping served as a mediating variable between their levels of self-esteem and optimistic perspectives of the future with resiliency. Implications for professionals working with a homeless young adult population include developing and strengthening substance preventions programs tailored to uniquely address their resiliency needs. Additionally, social workers and other direct service providers may incorporate intervention strategies that focus on improving self-esteem and increasing young adults' optimistic perspectives of the future. Homeless young adults will benefit from working with professionals who have a better understanding of their lives on streets and the unique coping strategies and survival skills that enable them to persist in a dangerous environment. Recognizing the strengths and resilience that homeless young adults are capable of, and incorporating strength-based perspectives in work with this group may empower these young adults to make positive choices and increase the likelihood of transitioning out of homelessness.