A runaway is a minor or (depending upon the local jurisdiction) a person under a specified age, who has left their parents or legal guardians without permission. Statistics show that females are more likely to run away than males.
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. Strict behavior and continual punishment or neglect of a child are the main reasons for runaway youths. 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.
Consequences of running away
Runaways have an elevated risk of destructive behavior. Approximately fifty percent of runaways experience difficulties with schooling; including dropping out, expulsion, or suspension. Running away can increase the risk of delinquency for adolescents, and expose them to the risk of victimization. There have been many studies in multiple countries about "street children"—youth who have run away and are presently homeless—showing that they have a high risk of taking illicit drugs, developing sexually transmitted infections (STI's), unintended pregnancy, depression, suicide attempts, and sexual exploitation. 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. The likelihood of depression among female runaways is related to family conflict and communication. Depression in male runaways is typically related to paternal alcohol abuse and family relationships. Negative interactions in relationships within the family appear to greatly influence depressive symptoms for both genders.
Runaways in international contexts
In Hong Kong, 51.1 percent of at-risk youth identified by social workers have been a runaway during the age range of 11 to 18.
Familial respect is important in India. Much of the Indian runaway population describes themselves as young people doing everything right at home, but having received harsh treatment from family members all throughout life. Mistreatment consists of anything from favoring one child over another to extreme abuse.
Love causes many female adolescents in India to run away 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 many 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 who run away from home will be returned to 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, or to physically injure the young woman or her romantic partners (only in rural area).
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. 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. Overbearing parents authoritarian, overprotective, and neglectful styles have led to adolescents running away.
In the United States, a runaway is a minor or a child/youth who leaves home without permission and stays away either overnight (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. A runaway is different from child abandonment or a "throwaway" youth. Runaway youth are evenly divided male and female, although girls are more likely to seek help through shelters and hotlines. In the US, 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. 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. 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.
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.
- International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children
- Street children
- Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway
- Child abandonment – children whose parents remove them from the home or refuse to let them live at home
- Disownment – declaring that a child is no longer part of the family
- Legislatures, National Conference of State. "Homeless and Runaway Youth". www.ncsl.org. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
- Smollar, 1999; Robertson & Toro, 1998
- 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): 553–563. doi:10.1002/jts.20229. PMC 2776719. PMID 17721973. Retrieved 11 December 2014.
- Achakzai, J. K. (Winter 2011). "Causes and Effects of Runaway Children Crisis: Evidence from Balochistan" (PDF). Pakistan Economic and Social Review. 49 (2): 211–230. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
- "NRS Statistics on Runaways". Nrscrisiline.org. National Runaway Safeline. Retrieved 11 January 2010.
- Cheung, Chan-Kiu; Suk-Ching, Liu; Tak-yan, Lee (2005). "Parents, Teachers, and Peers and Early Adolescent Runaway in Hong Kong". Adolescence. 40 (158): 403–24. PMID 16114601.
- Edinburgh, Laurel D.; Garcia, Carolyn M.; Saewyc, Elizabeth M. (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. 34 (2): 150–168. doi:10.1080/07399332.2011.645962. PMC 4681540. PMID 23311908.
- Thompson, Sanna; Bender, Kimberly; Jihye, Kim (February 2011). "Family factors as predictors of depression among runaway youth: do males and females differ?". Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal. 28 (1): 35–48. doi:10.1007/s10560-010-0218-5.
- 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
- Mei, Zhao; et al. (2012). "Newspaper Coverage Of Runaway In China". Children and Youth Services Review. 34 (9): 1598–1603. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2012.04.017.
- 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. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
- "Home". National Runaway Safeline. Retrieved 29 December 2018.
- "Background on Status Offenders". Cga.ct.gov. 31 January 2003. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
- "Illinois Compiled Statutes 720 ILCS 5 Criminal Code of 1961. Section 10-6 - Illinois Attorney Resources - Illinois Laws". Law.onecle.com. 20 February 2012. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
- "Criminal Parental Kidnapping" (PDF). Ndaa.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 February 2005. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
- The World Almanac and Book of Facts: 2006 Edition, Pg. 205 ISBN 0-88687-964-7
- "Family and Youth Services Bureau". Acf.hhs.gov. Retrieved 11 January 2010.
- "Here to Listen, Here to Help". National Runaway Safeline. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
- Brennan, Tim, David Huizinga, and Delbert S. Elliott. The social psychology of runaways. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1978. ISBN 0-669-00565-7.
- Fernandes-Alcantara, Adrienne L. Runaway and Homeless Youth: Demographics and Programs. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 26 April 2018.
- 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 30 October 2013).