Homeless but Connected- Literature Review 7

A brief report about providing internet access for homeless adolescents in need.

I choose to review “Homeless But Connected: The Role of Heterogeneous Social Network Ties and Social Networking Technology in the Mental Health Outcomes of Street-Living Adolescents” because the study proves how homeless adolescents rely on social networking for stability in their lives. Since these adolescents are particularly at risk for mental illnesses and other issues, it is important to take a closer look at what triggers the depression and what helps the adolescents cope with it.

The study states that about 36% of homeless and runaway adolescents meet lifetime criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); though this rate and that of other disorders also varies based on gender. Females had higher rates of PTSD than the males did. (Cauce et al. 2000; Whitbeck et al. 2007). The study goes on to note that the homeless adolescents are also high risk for low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, and other self-injurious behaviors (Unger et al. 1997).

This article is essentially broken down into ten different sections, the first section describing to the audience (as I noted above in shorter form) the state of mental health of homeless adolescents. The second section compares outcomes for adolescents with and without social support. Overall the study supports that adolescents who feel socially isolated have higher odds of suicide attempts, lower levels of self-esteem, and higher rates of depressive symptoms (Hall-Lande et al. 2007).

The next section is called “Countervailing Influences of Social Environment on Homeless Adolescents” and provides existing evidence to support & investigate the multidimensional social connections of homeless adolescents. The researchers compared pro-social versus anti-social adolescents and then compared the homeless to home-based adolescents. The whole picture of the research was focusing on how communication technology may facilitate home-based social ties among high risk, mentally ill homeless adolescents.

The rest of the article focuses on methods, procedures, and results. I was particularly curious on how the researchers would measure the levels of depression and need. All the info was self reported and measured/assessed with the Beck’s Depression Inventory (Beck et al. 1988) and Beck’s Anxiety Inventory (Beck et al. 1996). According to this article, both instruments are widely used and have proven consistency.

Social network variables were coded independently. (see below)

“(1) whether the interaction with the tie was face-to-face or via social networking technology (i.e., “phone, email, or texting”) in the prior month;

(2) whether the tie was formed at home prior to homelessness, or formed on the streets after the adolescent became homeless; and

(3) whether the tie was considered to be a “friend” or not. The total number of friends was coded by summing all ties reported as “friends.”

The team also provides tables to show the findings of the mental health vs. friends and friendship types. The conclusion of the data is exciting to our team, the Urban Dwellers, in that future research “stems” from these findings according to Rice and his team. Two possibilities are:

  1. ) A probability sample of homeless adolescents that examines technology use and how social networking technology is used to maintain connections to relations that support health and mental health would be valuable (Rice, 2012.)


2.) Researchers can seek to understand more completely the process through which connecting to pro-social, home-based peers was associated with improved mental health. A comprehensive examination of social support in this context would be a logical starting point (Rice, 2012.)


Connecting to positive, supportive, home-based ties is made possible through social media/connections to family and friends. Community-based and public agencies serving homeless adolescents should consider providing access to computers, the internet, social networking websites, and other social networking technologies to homeless adolescent youth.


Kurzban, S., Rice E., Ray D. (2012). Homeless but connected: the role of heterogeneous social ties and social networking technology in the mental health outcomes of street living adolescents.

Cross Referenced:

Beck, A. T., Epstein, N., Brown, G., & Steer, R. A. (1988). An inventory for measuring clinical anxiety: Psychometric properties. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 56(6), 893–897.

Hall-Lande, J. A., Eisenberg, M. E., Christenson, S. L., & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2007). Social isolation, psychological health, and protective factors in adolescence. Adolescence, 42(166), 265–286.

Unger, J. B., Kipke, M. D., Simon, T. R., Montgomery, S. B., & Johnson, C. J. (1997). Homeless youths and young adults in Los Angeles: Prevalence of mental health problems and the relationship between mental health and substance abuse disorders. American Journal of Community Psychology, 25(3), 371–394.

Whitbeck, L. B., Hoyt, D. R., & Yoder, K. A. (1999). A risk-amplification model of victimization and depressive symptoms among runaway and homeless adolescents. American Journal of Community Psychology, 27(2), 273–296.

Whitbeck, L. B., Johnson, K. D., Hoyt, D. R., & Cauce, A. M. (2004). Mental disorder and comorbidity among runaway and homeless adolescents. The Journal of Adolescent Health, 35(2), 132–140.