Perspectives on US Domestic Violence Emergency Shelters: What do Young Adolescent Residents and their Mothers Say?


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

As part of a larger qualitative study using Life Story methods, an ethnically diverse, purposive sample (n = 27) of young adolescents (ages 12–14) and their mothers residing in four US domestic violence emergency shelters were interviewed about their perspectives of shelter life. Youth reported aspects they liked, most often expressing that they liked other families residing in the shelter. More than one-half expressed disliking shelter rules restricting their behaviour. Mothers expressed positive feelings about the shelters overall. They emphasised the package of services received, safety, the shelter’s effectiveness in meeting their needs, and positive interactions with personnel. Mothers’ most frequently suggested improvement was for more space and services for children and youth. Results of youth and mother interviews are contextualised by descriptions of the shelters they resided in, based on interviews with personnel at each shelter. This article discusses findings within developmental and human rights frameworks, considering participant views in terms of normative adolescent development and non-normative histories of violence exposure and residential instability, while highlighting the human rights-informed value of youth perspectives for research, programme development, and youth development. It discusses implications for research and practice, with recommendations for developing shelter environments, programmes and policies responsive to young adolescent residents.

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