Methods: This study used the Homeless Youth Risk and Resilience Survey (HYRRS) data originally collected from 1,348 YAEH aged 18-24 in seven U.S. cities. Only YAEH self-identified as gender and/or sexual minority (N=425) from the parent project were included in the study. The HYRRS involves questions covering YAEH’s individual characteristics (e.g., demographics and drinking behaviors) and their social network composition (e.g., network member types). Logistic regression models were conducted to explore the relationships between different social support sources and GSM YAEH’s past 30-day heavy drinking behavior, controlling for demographics, homeless experiences, past trauma exposure, and mental illness history.
Results: Over 40 percent of GSM YAEH were involved in heavy drinking in the past 30 days. Past street victimization history was positively associated with GSM YAEH’s involvement in heavy drinking. Having at least one street-based peer in the network (OR=1.95; 95% CI=1.21, 3.16) and at least one home-based peer (OR=1.67; 95% CI=1.03, 2.72) in the network who provided social supports were both associated with GSM YAEH’s heavy drinking risk.
Conclusion and Implications: Consistent with previous literature, GSM YAEH in this study were at a higher risk of heavy drinking as compared to their non-GSM peers (40% vs. 31%; χ2=10.8). However, contradictory to previous research and RAAM, this study failed to identify the protective role that social supports may play in reducing GSM YAEH’s heavy drinking behavior. In fact, receiving social supports, regardless from pro-social (i.e., home-based peers) or deviant social ties (i.e., street-based peers), were associated with elevated risk of heavy drinking among GSM YAEH. Based on our findings, trauma informed care geared toward street victimization may be critical in addressing GSM YAEH’s heavy drinking risk. Network-based interventions aiming to reduce heavy drinking among GSM YAEH should be cautious of the potential risk implications supportive ties may have. Future studies should also explore and identify social supports sources that are likely to be protective of GSM YAEH’s heavy drinking.