The Impact on Teens of Running Away
November is National Runaway Prevention Month, which is spearheaded by the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) and National Network for Youth (NN4Y). The goal is to raise awareness of the runaway and homeless youth crisis and the issues that these young people face and to educate the public about solutions and the role they can play in ending youth homelessness. You can learn more about National Runaway Prevention Month and the various activities associated with it on their website.
NRS estimates between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away in a year. Almost nothing could be more heartbreaking to a parent than to have a child run away from home.
Things to know about teen runaways:
- Why. Teens leave home for a wide variety of reasons. Many times a child will run away because they feel like they have to escape – perhaps to avoid something bad from happening, to escape conflict, to evade being caught for breaking the rules, or, in worst case scenarios, to flee from abuse.
- Who. There is no “typical” runaway – they are from all races, gender and socio-economic background.
- Signs. There are also no definitive signs that a teen will run away; however, parents should recognize thay any major changes in behavior are a sign that something is wrong. Additionally, pay attention if your child ever threatens to run away, if they keep a backpack of clothes ready, or if they begin to accumulate money or steal possessions.
- Prevention. Developing a good relationship and maintaining open communication with your teen is the best strategy parents have to prevent their child from running away. We have discussed how to develop good communication in these previous blogs: Effectively Communicating with Teens and Healthy Adult-Adolescent Relationships.
A recent NRS study examined the outcomes of teens running away from home (listed below). Parents should share these sad statistics so that teens will at least consider the consequences and challenges of running away before they do it.
- Running away from home as an adolescent increases the odds of having suicidal thoughts as an adult by 51%. An even stronger relationship is found between suicide attempts and previous run away experience, with runaways having over three times higher odds as non-runaways of attempting suicide as adults.
- Someone who ran away from home as an adolescent has odds 44% higher of having health issues that prevent them from doing moderate activities than someone who never ran away from home.
- The likelihood of an individual being a smoker as an adult is over twice as high (2.4 times) for former runaways than for individuals who never ran away from home. Former runaways are 67% more likely to use marijuana as an adult than non-runaways.
- Former runaways are 53% more likely to report having a sexually transmitted disease as an adult than non-runaways.
- The annual personal income level of adults who ran away from home as adolescents is $8,823 lower on average compared to adults who never ran away from home.
- The odds of having someone in your household who is a recipient of welfare are 76% higher for adults who ran away as an adolescent compared to individuals who never ran away from home.
- The likelihood of not having a high school degree or GED is 50% higher for former runaways than non-runaways.
JUSTICE SYSTEM IMPACTS
- The odds of former runaways being arrested as adults are over two and a half times higher than individuals who never ran away from home.
- Selling drugs as an adult is positively correlated with running away as an adolescent with a 99% increase in odds over adults who never ran away from home.
You can get more information at the National Runaway Safeline: http://www.1800runaway.org/.