Protective Factors Among Pregnant and Parenting Youth Experiencing Homelessness in Shelter: A Qualitative Exploratory Study

Marvin So, Sarah M. Kaja, Pooja Brar, Christopher J. Mehus, Christina Woodlee, Janna R. Gewirtz O’Brien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pregnant and parenting youth experiencing homelessness (PPYEH) face considerable health and socioeconomic challenges. Although protective factors, such as positive adult relationships, are key elements for healthy development throughout adolescence and young adulthood, they remain less understood among PPYEH. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 11 female participants (ages 15–20) in a shelter-based health program, we conducted a qualitative analysis to explore protective factors among PPYEH. Guided by a theory-informed codebook, we identified individual, interpersonal, organizational, and community-level factors that supported the health of PPYEH. Individual factors included youths’ future orientation, sexual health and contraceptive knowledge, understanding/prioritization of personal and child health, self-efficacy and engagement in their parent role, and ability to navigate complex systems. Interpersonal factors included meaningful parent–child relationships and multidimensional support from family and school. Organizational factors included instrumental support from school and shelter, shelter rules and policies, and the benefit of the shelter compared to previous housing circumstances. Community factors included having access to and satisfaction with primary care, easy access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, and a network of professional supports. Societal-level protective factors were not identified. Findings demonstrate the value of understanding and enhancing protective factors within ongoing clinical, educational, and policy efforts to support PPYEH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAdversity and Resilience Science
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.


  • Family homelessness
  • Homeless youth
  • Parent-child relationship
  • Positive youth development
  • Protective factors


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