Understanding Runaway Teens

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Large numbers of teenagers become “runaways” and put themselves at risk for physical and emotional harm. During the year 2002, an estimated 1.6 million U.S. youth aged 12 to 17 had run away from home and slept on the streets.


A qualitative exploratory method was used to study a sample of primarily ethnic minority youth found in a Midwestern inner city detention center. This study examined run behavior from the teenager's own perspective to identify why they ran, how they kept themselves safe, and what factors contributed to ending a run.


Teens ran to gain control of their lives by changing their situation. They developed new affiliations to meet safety and sustenance needs and learned from experience that one cannot run from your problems. With experience, running became habitual.


Safer alternatives are needed for youth who cannot live at home.

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