Life-course predictors of homelessness from adolescence into adulthood: A population-based cohort study

Jessica A. Heerde, Jennifer A. Bailey, Adrian B. Kelly, Barbara J. McMorris, George C. Patton, John W. Toumbourou

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1 Scopus citations


Introduction: Internationally, the prevalence of young adult homelessness is concerning. Few data on life-course predictors from longitudinal studies exist, limiting our capacity to inform prevention strategies at the population-level. Methods: Data were drawn from a state representative population-based sample of young adults from Victoria, Australia participating in the International Youth Development Study (IYDS; N = 927, 54% female). Participants were recruited in state-representative secondary school samples at Grade 7 (age 13, 2002), with follow-up in Grades 9 (age 15) and 11 (age 17) and at ages 21, 23 and 25. Using longitudinal path modelling, we conducted a series of analyses testing life-course predictors of young adult homelessness across multiple socializing contexts, and the interrelationships among them. Results: The rate of young adult homelessness was 5.5%. Path modelling showed higher levels of family conflict at ages 13 and 15 uniquely predicted homelessness by age 25. This effect remained after accounting for other risk factors in peer-group (e.g., interactions with antisocial peers), school (e.g., low academic performance), and community contexts (e.g., low neighborhood attachment). Peer drug use and interaction with antisocial peers at age 15 mediated the association between family conflict at age 13 and homelessness by age 25. Conclusions: Findings point to the vulnerability of early adolescents to family conflict. This vulnerability heightens risk for young adult homelessness. Findings strengthen the case for both primary prevention programs that build healthy relationships between family members from early on in adolescence and for investment in homelessness prevention at key developmental periods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-24
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Adolescence
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Dr. Heerde is supported by a University of Melbourne - Melbourne Research Fellowship . Her early work on this article was supported by the Westpac Scholars Trust (Research Fellowship). Professor Patton is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council Senior Principal Research Fellowship . The IYDS was supported in part by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse ( R01DA012140 ), the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse ( R01AA017188 ), the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council ( NHMRC; 491241 , 594793 and 1047902 ) and the Australian Research Council ( DP109574 , DPO663371 and DPO877359 ). The funding agencies did not have any involvement in the analysis and interpretation of data, the writing of the article or the decision to submit the article for publication. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the sponsors.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


  • Adolescent risk factors
  • Antisocial peers
  • Family conflict
  • Longitudinal
  • Peer drug use
  • Young adult homelessness

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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