Gap Analysis of Research Literature on Issues Related to Street-Involved Youth

1. Introduction

Street youth have been the subject of a number of studies and related policy discussions, but a review of the literature from 1990 on reveals appreciable gaps in coverage of certain important issues[1]. The primary intent of this review is two-fold:

  1. to explore relationships between key background variables of youth and their experience on the street and
  2. to identify gaps in the literature that may be considered in the planning of future research.

Secondarily, the review is to examine research methodologies that may offer promise for a youth-focused research strategy in future and to review programmatic responses to the needs of street youth. In all cases, the emphasis is on Canadian studies, but where they are particularly relevant or illuminating, findings from other locations will be noted.

For the purposes of this study, the key background characteristics of street-involved youth are: by antecedent family background, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. These are then reflected against factors such as: terms of conditions and experiences of street sub-culture, including poverty, hunger, insecure shelter, poor health, and forms of victimization such as racism and homophobia. These complex conditions – background and day-to-day living – combine to create conditions for street-involved youth that make them particularly vulnerable to violence.


[1] Research sources for this survey have been identified and listed using such Internet search tools as EBSCOHost Academic Search, CARL, and Medline, database including Humanities and Social Science Index, Social Work Abstracts, Sociological Abstracts, and First Nations Periodical Index, and website search engines such as Google. As well, federal and provincial government websites and some print indexes of periodicals were searched. Finally, print bibliographies in books and articles discovered through other means were scanned for additional titles.

Key search terms such as street-involved youth, street youth/gay/female, youth-at-risk, homeless youth, and adolescent runaways/throwaway were used to narrow the searches. Both Canadian and American references have been included, although titles relating to specific local programs in the United States have been excluded. Titles that seemed to refer only to street prostitution were omitted.

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