This study will use social network data to explore HIV risk behaviors among gang-involved homeless youth.
Annual statistics suggest there are 1.6 million homeless youth and 1.4 million active gang members in the United States. Experiences of homelessness and gang membership are known determinants of negative behavioral health outcomes, including the most frequently examined potential correlates of HIV risk behaviors: substance use and risky sexual behavior. Although seemingly disparate occurrences, homelessness and gang involvement intersect. Previous research has found that approximately 15% of homeless youth currently identify as gang members and up to 32% have gang affiliations. However, very little is known about homeless youth gang members and closely affiliated peers. To better understand this population, this study will explore HIV risk behaviors among gang-involved homeless youth related to social networks. The study’s goals include drastically increasing knowledge regarding gang involvement among homeless youth using an explanatory sequential mixed-methods approach. During the first phase of the study, quantitative survey data and social network data from a National Institute of Mental Health-funded study will be used to identify associations between HIV risk behaviors and social networks among gang-involved homeless youth (self-identified members and affiliates). In Phase 2, purposeful sampling methods will be used to identify and select high-risk gang-involved homeless youth to participate in semistructured life history calendar (LHC) interviews. The LHC approach will be used to contextualize and expand on Phase 1 findings and develop a theoretical framework to understand the HIV risk of gang-involved homeless youth. Using multiple sources of data (quantitative, social network, and LHC) will provide a unique and rigorous contribution to the literature and increase our understanding of gang involvement and HIV risk among homeless youth. With the assistance of a community advisory board, these findings will be used to inform new directions in interventions for homeless youth; specifically what network-level interventions could be adapted to prevent gang-related HIV risks in the homeless youth population.
National Institute of Mental Health
Robin Petering, Principal Investigator
Eric Rice (Sponsor)
Benjamin Henwood (Co-Sponsor)
Avelardo Valdez (Co-Sponsor)
Thomas Valente (Co-Sponsor)