Pregnancy and Mental Health of Young Homeless Women

Devan M. Crawford, Emily C. Trotter, Kelley J.Sittner Hartshorn, Les B. Whitbeck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Pregnancy rates among young women who are homeless are significantly higher than rates among housed young women in the United States (J. M. Greene & C. L. Ringwalt, 1998). Yet, little research has addressed mental health or risk and resilience among young mothers who are homeless. Based on a sample from the Midwest Longitudinal Study of Homeless Adolescents, this study explores pregnancy and motherhood in unaccompanied homeless young women over a period of 3years. The data are supplemented by in-depth interviews with a subset of young women. Results show that almost half (46.4%) of sexually active young women who are homeless (n=222, Mage=17.2) had been pregnant at baseline. Among those who stated they had children between Waves 2 and 13 (n=90), only half reported caring for their children consistently over time, and one fifth reported never seeing their children. Of the participants with children in their care at the last interview (Wave 13), almost one third met criteria for lifetime major depressive episode, lifetime posttraumatic stress disorder, and lifetime drug abuse, and half met criteria for lifetime antisocial personality disorder. Twelve-month diagnoses are also reported. The impacts of homelessness on maternal and child outcomes are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-183
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Homeless young women
  • Lifetime antisocial personality disorder
  • Major depressive episode
  • Mental health
  • Midwest
  • Midwest longitudinal study of homeless adolescents
  • Motherhood
  • Parenting
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Pregnancy
  • Substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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