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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Substance use and school connectedness among street-involved youth in British Columbia : a mixed-methods study Rivers, Robert


Street-involved youth face difficulties due to their precarious living situation. Substance use is higher among these youth compared to the general youth population. This study examines the relationship between street-involved youth and school connection on their problem substance use. Problem substance use was defined as using marijuana 20 or more times a month, binge drinking alcohol three or more times a month, and facing consequences from severe substance use. The study design was a two-step sequential mixed-methods approach, beginning with a quantitative analysis using probability profiling via logistic regression with 762 street-involved youth ages 12 to 18 who responded to the province wide 2006 British Columbia Street-Involved Youth Survey in Canada. The second step used qualitative interviews to collect qualitative data with street-involved youth enrolled in school the previous year and identified using substances. Themes were identified from their experiences with substance use while in school. The probability profiling analyses uncovered school connectedness influenced problem substance use differently for young women and men. The presence of school connectedness decreased the probability of Problem Alcohol Use from 32% to 17% for young men and provided a 25% overall reduction in probability among known risk factors. The probability of Problem Marijuana Use decreased from 33% to 18% for young women as school connectedness increased; school connectedness reduced risk factors by 18%. Consequences from Substance Use was marginally protected against for young women, but school attendance protected against consequences for young men by 12%, in the presence of known risk factors. The second step examined qualitative data collected from interviews with four young women and seven young men who were street-involved in Vancouver, Canada at the time of the study. The age for youth participation was 16 to 24; they must been in school for a month over the past year and used substances while attending school. The recruited youth were between ages 16 and 21. They said having one caring adult in school, participating in extracurricular activities, and attending schools with zero tolerance policies toward substance use were ineffective in reducing substance use or creating stronger connections to school.

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