CONTEXT: Pregnancy rates are substantially higher among homeless youth than in the general population of youth, yet little is known about homeless adolescents’ and young adults’ pregnancy-related attitudes and behaviors.
METHODS: Pregnancy-related attitudes and behaviors were examined among two samples of sexually active homeless 13–24-year-olds in Los Angeles County. Data from 37 semistructured interviews conducted in March–April 2011 were analyzed using standard qualitative methods. Data from a structured survey with 277 respondents, conducted between October 2008 and August 2009, were analyzed primarily using regression modeling.
RESULTS: More than half of interview respondents held ambivalent attitudes toward pregnancy, and ambivalent youth reported less contraceptive use than others. The interviews identified several potential influences on pregnancy attitudes: barriers associated with homelessness, readiness to settle down, desire to achieve goals, belief that a child would create something positive in life, and family and partners. In the survey, having positive attitudes toward pregnancy was positively associated with duration of homelessness (odds ratio, 1.6), contact with relatives (1.1) and relationship commitment (1.8); it was negatively associated with frequency of drinking (0.9). Relationship commitment was positively associated with nonuse of an effective contraceptive method at last sex (1.5).
CONCLUSIONS: Effective and accessible pregnancy prevention and family planning programs for homeless youth are needed. Youths’ ambivalence toward pregnancy and feelings of relationship commitment warrant attention as possible areas for programs to address.
Joan S. Tucker: RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA. Suzanne L. Wenzel: Department of Social Work, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.