Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

96P Homeless Youth's Social Network Properties, Methamphetamine Use, and Concurrent Sexual Partnerships

Saturday, January 14, 2012
Independence F - I (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Eric Rice, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Hsun-Ta Hsu, MSW, PhD Student, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Background: Compared to housed youth, homeless youth are at greater risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV and STDs. Concurrent sexual relationships (concurrency) expedite the spread of disease in populations with high disease prevalence. Due to the fact that homeless youth are more sexually active than housed youth, and that concurrency can expedite HIV and STD transmission, the purpose of this study is to investigate concurrency among homeless youth and potential indicators that may contribute to this pattern of risky relationships. More knowledge in this area will enhance our knowledge base about homeless youth's sexual risk, and inform future HIV and STD prevention intervention in this population.

Method: The 100 youth in the sample were from the socio-metric network data derived from the Homeless Youth Network Survey in 2008 at a drop-in center in Los Angeles. Network data was collected in a face-to-face interview conducted by a trained interviewer, soliciting network ties using a 17 category name generator (e.g. “friends”, “family”, “people you kick it with”). A sociomatrix was created linking participants in the sample. A directed tie from participant i to participant j was recorded if participant i nominated participant j in his/her personal network. Matches were based on: name, alias, ethnicity, gender, approximate age, and agency attendance. This technique allows us to assess associations of actual behaviors among social network peers rather than relying on perceptions of peer behaviors as reported by other youth. Concurrency was assessed by number of sexual partners in the past 90 days. Participant demographics, risk behaviors (e.g., unprotected sex and methamphetamine use), and social network properties (e.g., peer involvement in concurrency, peer's practice of unprotected sex and peer's methamphetamine use) were included in the model. Bivariate and multivariate linear regressions were conducted. Due to the extensive literature on homeless youth's sexual risk, we used one-tailed tests rather than two-tailed tests when assessing the impact of network characteristics on concurrency.

Results: The prevalence rate of concurrency among youths in this study was 37 percent. For each participant, more than one third of their social network peers had used methamphetamine, one out of two did not use condom at their last sexual intercourse, and over one third of them had been involved in concurrency. At the bivariate level, being a minority, personal methamphetamine use, social network peers' involvement in concurrency and methamphetamine use were found to be significantly associated with concurrency (p<.05, one-tailed tests). In the multivariate model, personal methamphetamine use was still found strong predictor to participants' involvement in concurrency, while controlling other variables (P<.05, two-tailed testes).

Discussion: The study has important implications for designing interventions for homeless youth. Compared to the general population, more homeless youth are involved in concurrency. Personal methamphetamine use was identified in this study as a significant association with concurrent sexual partnerships. To our knowledge, this is the only study that looks at methamphetamine use among homeless youth and its impact on their concurrency. This finding suggests targeting on methamphetamine-using homeless youth can be an important strategy for reducing concurrency.