Runaway (dependent)

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A runaway is a minor or a person under an arbitrary age, depending upon the local jurisdiction, who has left the home of the 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). Runaways are equally male or female, with females the most likely to seek assistance.


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] Strict behavior and continual punishment or neglect of a child are shown to be main reasons for runaway youths. Studies also show that 89% of child runaways were encouraged to do so by their peers.[2] Nearly half of runaway youths report that at least one of their parents struggles with alcohol addiction, and at least one third reported a parent struggling with drug addiction.[3]

LGBTQ runaway youth[edit]

Runaway youth that identify as LGBTQ are at a higher risk for psychological symptoms including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse when compared to heterosexual runaway youths. LGBTQ youth constitute a higher percentage of runaway youth than they are represented in the general population of youth. Runaway LGBTQ youth exhibit higher substance abuse practices than their non-runaway homosexual peers.[4]

Consequences of running away[edit]

Runaways exhibit a higher level of destructive behavior. Approximately fifty percent of runaways experience difficulties with schooling; including dropping out, expulsion, or suspension.[5] Running away can increase the risk of delinquency for adolescents, and expose them to the risk of victimization.[6] Youth that have run away and are presently street involved are well documented internationally and include a high risk of being exposed to illicit drugs, sexually transmitted infections (STI's Sexually transmitted disease), unintended pregnancy, depression, suicide attempts, and sexual exploitation.[7] Greater proportions of runaway youths experience clinically significant Posttraumatic stress disorder than normative youths. Trauma generally begins with runaway youth’s experiences within the family and is increased by prolonged traumatic events.[3] The likelihood of depression among female runaways is related to family conflict and communication. Depression in male runaways is related to paternal alcohol abuse and family relationships. Negative interactions in relationships within the family appear to greatly influence depressive symptoms for both genders.[8]

Runaways in national contexts[edit]


In Hong Kong, 51.1% of at-risk youth identified by social workers have the experience of runaway from ages 11 to 18.[6] Social control theory describes the runaway situation in China. Adolescent friendships can interfere with positive influences parents place in the adolescent's life. According to the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics, approximately 150,000 runaway children and youth were documented in 2006[9] Unrealistic expectations of school has caused many adolescents to run away. Many runaways are low achievers who reported they were constantly criticized by their teachers and experienced their teachers indifferent attitude toward them.[9] Overbearing parents authoritarian, overprotective and neglectful[9] styles have led to adolescents running away.


Approximately 47 million runaway and homeless adolescents are estimated to be on the streets of India.[10] The very act of running away from home in India is thought to be disrespectful, and anyone that does so will be greatly shamed by the community. Studies have shown a higher prevalence of adolescent boys running away than adolescent girls.

Familial respect is important in India. Many adolescents believe if they disrespect their parents, then they deserve to be punished or mistreated. Much of the Indian runaway population describes themselves as young people doing everything right at home, but received harsh treatment from family members all throughout life.[10] Mistreatment consists of anything from favoring one child over another to extreme abuse.

Love causes many female adolescents in India to runaway from home. While neglectful home lives are the leading cause for running away, often underage women will flee home to marry a significant other. In some parts of India, marriages are prearranged. The disapproval of the intended partner can result in young women running away from their families to marry their true loves.

If caught, young women that runaway from home will be returned their male relatives. Refusal to return home will result in her being escorted to Nari Sanrakshan Gruh, the Women’s Protection Center or Women's Home for short, in a nearby city. Families are also likely to refuse to speak to the child, disown them, commit suicide, or to physically injure young woman or her romantic partners.

In many cases if the eloping couple is caught then the boy faces a rape charge from the girl's parents, this issue has been cited by various social activists [10]

United States[edit]

In the USA, A runaway is a minor or a child/youth that leaves home without permission and stays away either over night (under 14 years old or older and mentally incompetent) or away from home two nights (15 or over) and chooses not to come home when expected to return.[11] A runaway is different than child abandonment or a "throwaway" youth. Runaway youth evenly divided male and female, although girls are more likely to seek help through shelters and hotlines.[12] In the USA, 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.[13] 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.[14][15] 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.[16]

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.,[17][18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Smollar, 1999; Robertson & Toro, 1998
  2. ^ Achakzai, J. K. (2011). "CAUSES AND EFFECTS OF RUNAWAY CHILDREN CRISIS: EVIDENCE FROM BALOCHISTAN". Pakistan Economic and Social Review 49: 20. Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Thompson, Sanna; Maccio, Elaine; Desselle, Sherry; Zittel-Palamara, Kimberly (August 2007). "Predictors of Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms Among Runaway Youth Utilizing Two Service Sectors". Journal of Traumatic Stress 20 (4): 11. doi:10.1002/jts. Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  4. ^ Rosario, Margaret; Schrimshaw, Eric; Hunter, Joyce (May 2012). "Homelessness Among Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youth: Implications for Subsequent Internalizing and Externalizing Symptoms". Journal of Youth and Adolescence (Springer Science & Business Media) 41 (5): 18. Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  5. ^ "NRS Statistics on Runaways from Peer-reviewed Journals and Federal Studies". Retrieved 11 January 2010. 
  6. ^ a b Chan-Kiu Cheung, Liu Suk-Ching and Lee Tak-yan. 2005. "Parents, Teachers, and Peers and Early Adolescent Runaway in Hong Kong" Adolescence 40(158):403-24
  7. ^ Edinburgh, Laurel; Garcia, Carolyn; Saewyc, Elizabeth (1 February 2013). It's Called "Going Out to Play": A Video Diary Study of Hmong Girls’ Perspectives on Running Away. Health Care for Women International. pp. 150–168. 
  8. ^ Thompson, Sanna; Bender, Kimberly; Jihye, Kim (2011). "Family Factors as Predictors of Depression Among Runaway Youth: Do Males and Females Differ?". Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal (Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010) 28 (1): 14. doi:10.1007/s10560-010-0218-5. Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c Mei, Zhao, et al. "Newspaper Coverage Of Runaway In China." Children And Youth Services Review 34.(n.d.): 1598-1603. ScienceDirect. Web. 13 Dec. 2013.
  10. ^ a b c Raval, Vaishali, Pratiksha Raval, and Stacey Raj. 2010. "Damned if They Flee, Doomed if They Don't: Narratives of Runaway Adolescent Females from Rural India." Journal Of Family Violence 25, no. 8. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost
  11. ^ Hammer, Heather; Finkelhor, David; Sedlak, Andrea (2002). "Runaway/thrownaway children : national estimates and characteristics". Second National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children (U.S.)--Statistics (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention). Retrieved 2 November 2014. 
  12. ^ Link text.
  13. ^ "Background on Status Offenders". 2003-01-31. Retrieved 2013-08-17. 
  14. ^ "Illinois Compiled Statutes 720 ILCS 5 Criminal Code of 1961. Section 10-6 - Illinois Attorney Resources - Illinois Laws". 2012-02-20. Retrieved 2013-08-17. 
  15. ^ "Criminal Parental Kidnapping". Retrieved 2013-08-16. 
  16. ^ The World Almanac and Book of Facts: 2006 Edition, Pg. 205 ISBN 0-88687-964-7
  17. ^ "Family and Youth Services Bureau". Retrieved 11 January 2010. 
  18. ^ "Here to Listen, Here to Help". National Runaway Safeline. Retrieved 2014-12-14. 

Further reading[edit]

  • 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.
  • Raval, Vaishali, Pratiksha Raval, and Stacey Raj. 2010. "Damned if They Flee, Doomed if They Don't: Narratives of Runaway Adolescent Females from Rural India." Journal Of Family Violence 25, no. 8: 755-764. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed October 30, 2013).

External links[edit]