What are the consequences of running away from home?

A unique feature of this study is its ability to examine depressive symptoms and substance use as potential consequences of running away from home, addressing the important question of whether running away has long-term health-related consequences. The answer to this question appears to be a qualified “yes.” Four to five years later, when these adolescent runaways have become young adults, they are more dependent on drugs and have more depressive symptoms than non-runaways. These associations are found even when controlling for early substance use, depressive symptoms, lack of parental support, school disengagement, general delinquency and demographic characteristics. Controlling for these other factors bolsters confidence that it is the experience of running away from home that contributes to these young adult problems. In terms of alcohol abuse, prior research has indicated that the larger difference in substance use between runaway/homeless youth and housed youth occurs for illicit drug use rather than alcohol consumption (). Nonetheless, it was somewhat surprising that running away was not associated with a higher alcohol dependence risk in young adulthood, given the negative repercussions and diminishing life choices that can result from this behavior (). The impact of running away on alcohol dependence risk may be limited to certain subgroups, as suggested by finding that runaway status predicted young adult alcohol consumption and dependency symptoms only among males who had run away multiple times. It may also be the case that alcohol misuse is so ubiquitous during young adulthood, with more than 40% of those in their early 20s reporting binge drinking (), that there is little added effect due to runaway status or that the effects of running away are not apparent until after these peak years of heavy drinking. Exploring these possibilities was beyond the scope of this study, but may be a useful direction for future research.

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What are the Consequences of Running Away from Home

What are the consequences of running away from home

The present study adds to this small body of literature by examining runaway behavior in a longitudinal cohort of 4,329 youth followed from Grade 9 to age 21, with a special focus on the potentially important roles of substance use and depressive symptoms as both antecedents and long-term consequence of running away from home. This study had the following three goals: to identify adolescent risk factors associated with running away from home; to understand whether running away from home increases an adolescent’s risk for substance abuse and depressive symptoms at age 21; and to examine whether the risk factors and outcomes associated with running away differed for low- versus high-frequency runaways. Consistent with existing evidence that family dysfunction is a common reason for running away, we hypothesized that adolescents who initially perceived lower parental support would be more likely to subsequently run away from home. However, we also expected that substance use and depressive symptoms, as well as school disengagement, would emerge as additional unique predictors of running away after adjusting for the level of perceived parental support. In terms of young adult outcomes, we hypothesized that the experience of running away from home during adolescence would in turn increase the likelihood of later substance abuse and depressive symptoms at age 21, even after accounting for the antecedent risk factors just mentioned. Although we are controlling for these antecedent factors, we do not have any formal hypotheses regarding the associations between Grade 9 predictors and age 21 outcomes. Finally, in light of evidence that repeat runaways differ from one-time runaways on a range of psychosocial characteristics (; ), we conducted exploratory analyses to determine whether the risk factors and outcomes associated with running away differ for low- versus high-frequency runaways..

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This study has a number of strengths, perhaps the most important being the use of longitudinal data to identify precursors and consequences of running away from home. Although the correlational nature of the data preclude us from determining cause and effect, use of these data brings us a step closer to understanding the temporal nature of these associations. Another strength is the ability to control for Grade 9 delinquency, substance use, and depressive affect (as well as a host of other demographic and psychosocial variables) in examining the associations of running away with the young adult outcomes at age 21. Doing so helps to isolate the unique contribution of running away from home on substance use and depressive symptoms over time. Given that much of the previous work on runaway youth has used small convenience or clinical samples, the use of a large school-based cohort that allowed for the comparison of runaways and non-runaways is another strength of this study.

Primary Sources: Addressing Risk Factors and Consequences of Running Away from Home
Consequences of Running Away from Home in a Sample of Iranian girls" [P]

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Des Moines, IOWA --- Each year 5th graders from across the country participate in the National Missing Children’s Day Poster Contest, showing their compassion for our country’s lost and missing youth, through art. Today, National Missing Children’s Day, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) honored those students in Iowa who excelled in depicting the harsh realities of child abduction or the sad consequences of running away from home, by using this year’s theme, 'Bring Our Missing Children Home.'

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Teenagers Running Away (Tips for Parents)

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May 24, 2010

Des Moines, IOWA — Each year 5th graders from across the country participate in the National Missing Children’s Day Poster Contest, showing their compassion for our country’s lost and missing youth, through art. Tomorrow the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation will honor those students in Iowa who excelled in depicting the harsh realities of child abduction or the sad consequences of running away from home, by using this year’s theme, “Bring Our Missing Children Home.”