Social Support as a Predictor of Substance Use, Mental Health And Mental Well-being among Street-involved Youth: A Longitudinal Examination




Kennedy, Mary Clare

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The purpose of this thesis research is to describe the availability of social support among street-involved youth and how this longitudinally predicts their substance use, mental health and mental well-being. Data from a panel study of street-involved youth in Victoria, British Columbia were analyzed (N=130). Thematic analysis of responses to open-ended questions and descriptive analyses of survey data were conducted to describe the availability of social support in participants’ lives. Multivariate regression was used to test two prominent theories of the relationship between social support and health (the stress-buffering and main effect theories) and to examine the association between sources of social support and health. The thematic analysis and descriptive analysis results indicate that there is considerable heterogeneity in terms of the availability, sources and types of social support among this population. The regression results provide partial support for the main effect theory; perceived availability of social support predicted reduced alcohol and hard drug use and better overall mental health and well-being, regardless of the stress levels. The stress-buffering theory was not supported. Sources of social support were not significantly related to health outcomes. The thesis concludes with policy and program suggestions and gives direction for further research on the relationship between social support and health among street-involved youth.



social support, street-involved youth, mental health, mental well-being, substance use