Once considered protective, perinatal periods are associated with increased risk for depression among women and perceived social support-particularly partner or familial-is a known protective factor. Pregnancy history is more likely for female young adults experiencing homelessness (FYAEH) when compared to the stably housed as is the likelihood of experiencing poor mental health. Little is known about the role of social support for FYAEH with an experience of pregnancy, nor has there been adequate research on whether social support is protective against depression.
This study explores the association between depression and social support for FYAEH with pregnancy history vs. not.
The current study used a subset of data collected from young adults experiencing homelessness in homeless service agencies across seven US cities collected via anonymous self-administered surveys. Young adults aged between 18-24 and currently experiencing homelessness are eligible for the parent study. In this study, only respondents (n=482) who identified as female were included. We first conducted chi-square analysis to explore differences in depression and types of social support sources among FYAEH with pregnancy history vs. not. We further conducted bivariate logistic regression models stratified by pregnancy history to explore the relationships between sources of social supports and depression status. Finally, we derived interaction terms (source of social supports x pregnancy history) for social support variables significant in one group but not the other, and entered them into the final multivariate logistic regression model, along with demographics (e.g., race/ethnicity), adverse childhood experiences, and substance use.
Among 482 FYAEH in this study, 49% reported pregnancy history. Among FYAEH with pregnancy history, 50% had depression and of those without pregnancy history, 38% reported depression. Having at least one home-based peer with whom they can count on for social support was significantly associated with depression status among FYAEH with pregnancy history but not among FYAEH without. The interaction term was not significant in the final multivariate combined model.
Conclusion and Implications
Findings from this study indicate home-based social support is protective against major depression for FYAEH with pregnancy history. In contrast, social support derived from street relations was not found to be significantly significant. Notably, the number of home-based supports were reported as fewer for homeless female youth with an experience of pregnancy. Sample size may contribute to the non-significant interaction between social support and pregnancy in the no pregnancy history group; however, the results imply that home-based peer support is critical for those with pregnancy history. These findings support future research, policy initiatives, and intervention to increase support for FYAEH with pregnancy history for prevention and reduction of depression.