Victimization and Health Among Indigent Young Women in the Transition to Adulthood

A Portrait of Need

Published in: Journal of Adolescent Health, v. 38, no. 5, May 2006, p. 536-543

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2005

by Suzanne L. Wenzel, Katrin Hambarsoomian, Elizabeth J. D'Amico, Marcia A. Ellison, Joan S. Tucker

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PURPOSE: To understand victimization by physical and sexual violence and its association with physical and behavioral health in a probability sample of sheltered homeless and low-income-housed young women in the transition to adulthood (ages 18 through 25). METHODS: Participants were 224 women ages 18 through 25 who were selected by means of a stratified random sample from 51 temporary shelter facilities (N = 94) and 66 Section 8 private project-based Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-subsidized apartment buildings (N = 130) in Los Angeles County, California. Women completed structured interviews. RESULTS: Forty-one percent of the sample had been physically or sexually victimized as children and 51% had been victimized since turning 18. Young women who experienced victimization were significantly (p < .05) more likely than non-victimized women to have a sexually-transmitted disease (STD) other than HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis B or C, vaginal discharge or bleeding and pelvic pain in the past 6 months, and past-12 month screening diagnoses of drug abuse/dependence and depression. Victimized women were also significantly more likely to use alcohol to intoxication and drugs, including crack and amphetamines, during the past 6 months, and to have experienced psychological distress and poor self-esteem. CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights striking rates of victimization and its association with physical and behavioral health problems among indigent young women during the period of emerging adulthood. This portrait of need communicates an urgency to develop multifaceted programs for such women to help them successfully navigate the transition to adulthood and realize their full potential as adults.

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