Defining The Concept Of A Runaway
Providing an effective definition for what constitutes a runaway, or what the act of running away involves, has proven difficult for many researchers. Although generic definitions do exist, many are fraught with ambiguity or lack the clarity necessary for a genuine empirical analysis. For this reason, there have been multiple attempts to create typological classifications of runaways in an effort to provide a foundation upon which to develop more lucid descriptions and definitions of what this phenomenon actually entails. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) defines the act of running away as "leaving or staying away on purpose, knowing you would be missed, and intending to stay away from home for at least some time" (Gullotta 1978, p. 544). Although this definition does provide a thorough description of what an individual must do and feel to be labeled a runaway, it does not distinguish between the nature of the runners and their psychological and contextual motivations for doing so.
To remedy the problems associated with generic operational definitions, attempts have been made to systematically develop typologies of runaway youth. These devices, which provide information on subgroups of the population, are useful with more precise conceptualizations of the population, thus allowing for more effective empirical analysis.