Effectiveness of a Mindfulness-Based Social Network Intervention to Reduce Violence in Young Adults Experiencing Homelessness

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Conference Proceeding

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APHA's 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting and Expo

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Background: Over 3.5 million young adults aged 18-25 experience homelessness in the U.S. in any 12-month period. Young adults experiencing homelessness (YAEH) are at elevated risk for violence victimization and perpetration, which can lead to injury, mental health problems, arrest, service disruption, and loss of housing. However, no violence-prevention interventions have been developed for this population. We conceptualize interpersonal violence as a contagious behavior within YAEH’s social networks that is amenable to change through network-level intervention. This study is an evaluation of a novel mindfulness-based peer-leader intervention designed to reduce violence and improve mindfulness in a network of YAEH. Methods: A social network of YAEH receiving services at a drop-in agency was recruited in Summer 2018 (n=103) and peer-leaders identified at baseline through artificial intelligence analysis to select optimally placed individuals both violent and open to change (n=10). Peer leaders were trained in mindfulness and self-regulation skills during a 1-day intensive workshop and seven 1-hour weekly follow-up workshops. Peer leaders were encouraged to share their knowledge organically with in-network peers. Post-intervention data was collected two months and again three months after baseline. Two one-way repeated-measures analyses of variance (ANOVAs) tested differences in means for mindfulness and violence engagement outcome variables. Results: The ANOVA results showed significant increases in mean mindfulness F(2, 110) = 3.42, p<0.05 and significant decreases in mean violent behavior scale scores F(2, 112) = 5.23, p<0.01 from baseline to posttest and one-month follow-up at the full network level. All peer leaders attended at least 6 of 7 follow up workshops. Discussion: Violence reduction is a critical part of a comprehensive strategy to end young adult homelessness, but the transient, hard to reach nature of YAEH poses problems for traditional intervention methods. Study findings suggest that a network-based approach leveraging peer relationships may be effective for changing YAEH’s behaviors and network characteristics to reduce violence. In addition, YAEH in this study demonstrated willingness to engage in self-directed mindfulness practice as a self-regulation strategy. Results suggest mindfulness may be conceptualized as a property of social networks negatively correlated with violence engagement.


Youth violence; Youth homelessness; YAEH; United States; Violence victimization and perpetration


Medicine and Health Sciences | Public Health | Public Health Education and Promotion



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