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Running away from home is the major step for even the most streetwise youth. Few runaways leave the comfort and familiarity of home without some compelling reasons. These are often related to the domestic violence, sexual or physical abuse, drug problems, and other family dysfunctions. Many children leave home due to the school problems or other personal issues. Others are forced onto the streets by the parents or caretakers who are unable or unwilling to handle the children’s troubles. Some children run away from the juvenile institutions after having already had a history of running away from home. Many runaways leave their homes in search of independence and safety from what they consider abusive treatment, whether emotional, sexual, or physical.
Domestic violence plays a significant role in teenagers running away from home. The effects on children witnessing this domestic violence (who are often victims, as well) can be devastating, thus, leading many to flee the brutally and tension that they experience within the entire household. The impact on children’s development has a long term implications for their being able to function as healthy, successful members of society. The runaway teenagers who were exposed to the domestic violence are at risk for externalized behavioral problems such as substance abuse, aggressiveness, and noncompliance with school and parental requests, and internalized behavioral problems such as somatic complaints, withdrawal, low self esteem, anxiety. Thus, a lot of children move out of their houses to escape the violence.
The relationship between the child sexual and physical abuse is a reason for leaving home. Many runaways are sexually molested and abused at home, whereas other become victims of the severe child abuse. They do not tell anything but eventually they do disclose if they have been sexually abused. Most of the children doing the disclosing are the girls and they have run away to escape from the sexual abuse of their stepfathers, fathers, parental and maternal uncles. Most runaway girls are typically subjected to varying degrees of sexual abuse, from oral sex to fondling to finger, object and penile penetration. The sexual abuse and battery experienced by the young runaways can also be perpetrated by the boyfriends and others, with whom they are not intimately involved. Many teenagers have experienced sexual assaults from the intimates and acquaintances.
Teenagers with the school-related problems are at high risk in terms of running away from home than teens that are well adjusted in school. At risk group of youths for running away include those who have poor grades in schools, are exposed to school-expulsions, social isolation from peers, and disciplinary problems in school or at home. Many such teens tend to drop out of school and their families taking to the streets and, eventually, into a life of prostitution and deviant behavior.
Many of runaway youths have a history of suicide attempts as a factor of leaving home. Suicide attempts are more likely among female and older teen runaways. The shelter runaways, who exercised suicide attempt, are often hospitalized following the most recent suicide attempt. There is a high proportion of runaway children who reported attempting suicide before leaving home than after leaving home.
Drug and alcohol abuse by runaways are seen as strongly related to the runaway episodes. Many teenagers abuse drugs prior to leaving home. Many runaway children have already developed a tendency for alcohol or drugs before taking to the streets. In some instances, the substance abuse is a way to cope with the problems while living at home, such as sexual abuse and family violence. These youths are already addicts or alcoholics; they often move from coach to coach searching for alcohol or drugs. Drug use by the family members is also linked to the runaway children. The familial substance abuse has an adverse affect on the juvenile behavioral problems such as running away from home. A correlation between the parental drug use and child drug use has a relationship result to other destructive juvenile behavior such as suicide and delinquency.
Many teens leave home not as because this was their voluntary decision, but parents or caretakers force them out of the house or abandon them. A lot of the teenagers depicted as runaways are in fact throwaways. The children have either driven out of the house or had parents who did not care that they were leaving. Such parents admit that they were aware of their children’s escape but they did not try to prevent it. Throwaway kids are even more susceptible to the familial conflicts and stresses than the runaway youth, and less likely to return home after leaving. Many homeless children become the members of the throwaway groups because they were often abused on the street.
Not all runaway youth come from the troubles, abusive families or are thrown away or abandoned. Some teenagers leave home for life on the streets as a part of a misguided sense of adventure and independence combined with the teenage rebellion, precariousness, promiscuity, and a need for companionship. Some runaway adventures experience other problems at home, influencing the decision to run away from home. Many of them seek the camaraderie, comfort, and acceptances they lack at home. Some children run for the companionship, friendship, and approval from those they meet. Runaways often sell drugs or their bodies, and steal to support themselves. Some teenagers run away from home after having met someone on the Internet, often with promises of adventure, sex, and independence – lures, which are too tempting to pass up for many caught between the boundaries of preadolescence and adulthood. Few of the runaway kids irrespective of the reason of leaving home will find life outside their homes better. At the same time, for many runaways, the life left behind is difficult for returning. These youths face a tough road with few options for a satisfactory way around their dilemma.
In conclusion, teenagers usually run away from home because of the unstable family situation including domestic violence, child sexual and physical abuse, and absence of one or both parents, impoverishment, and familial substance abuse. Some runaways leave because of school or personal problems, sexual identity issues, mental illnesses, peer pressure, or boredom. Many of runaway youth are in reality thrown out of the house or otherwise abandoned by parents and guardians. Finally, there is a group of runaways who leave home for adventure, thrills, sexual experiences, or are lured by others through the Internet. Some of these children may also have underlying reasons for running away such as abuse or family violence. Whatever the reason a youth decides to or is forced to leave home, the result is often one of despair.