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Runaway youth


Runaway youth

A runaway is a minor or a person under an arbitrary age, depending upon the local jurisdiction, who has left the home of his or her parent or legal guardian without permission, or has been thrown out by his or her parent and is considered by the local authorities to lack the capacity to live under his or her own accord (the latter is sometimes referred to as a "throwaway").


Current studies suggest that the primary cause of youth homelessness is family dysfunction in the form of parental neglect, physical or sexual abuse, family substance abuse, and family violence.[1] Family conflict can also be caused by sudden or drastic changes in the family composition (i.e. a divorce, re-marriage, death of a parent), parental substance abuse, youth's substance abuse, and youth's sexual activity.

Runaways are equally male or female, with females the most likely to seek assistance. Once the youth becomes a runaway, the most common concern becomes the possibility of physical or sexual abuse upon returning home, followed by any substance dependency. Approximately fifty percent of runaways experience difficulties with schooling; including dropping out, expulsion, or suspension.[2]

North America

In North America, runaway children or youth are widely regarded as a chronic and serious social problem. It is estimated that each year there are between 1.3 and 1.5 million runaway and homeless youth in the United States (Coco & Courtney, 1998; Cauce et al., 1994).

Running away from home is considered a crime in some jurisdictions, but it is usually a status offense punished with probation, or not punished at all.[3] Giving aid or assistance to a runaway instead of turning them in to the police is a more serious crime called "harboring a runaway", and is typically a misdemeanor.[4][5] The law can vary considerably from one jurisdiction to another; in the United States there is a different law in every state. A 2003 FBI study showed that there were 123,581 arrests for runaway youths in the United States.[6]

The Family and Youth Services Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services funds grant programs to help runaway and homeless youth. The organization also provides funding for the National Runaway Switchboard, a national hotline for runaway youth, youth who are thinking about running away or are in crisis, parents, and other concerned adults.[7]

See also


Further reading

  • Brennan, Tim, David Huizinga, and Delbert S. Elliott. The social psychology of runaways. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1978. ISBN 0-669-00565-7.
  • Janus, Mark-David. Adolescent runaways: causes and consequences. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1987. ISBN 0-669-13047-8.
  • Goldberg, Jim. Raised by wolves. Zurich and New York: Scalo, 1995. ISBN 1-881616-50-9.
  • Whitbeck, Les B., and Dan R. Hoyt. Nowhere to grow: homeless and runaway adolescents and their families. New York: Aldine de Grutyer, 1999. ISBN 0-202-30583-X.
  • Gwartney, Debra. Live through this: a mother's memoir of runaway daughters and reclaimed love. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. ISBN 978-0-547-05447-6.

External links

  • U.S. Territories
  • United Kingdom
  • Family and Youth Services Bureau
  • National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth

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