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Runaway Youths

Defining The Concept Of A Runaway, Categories Of Runaways, Historical Patterns Of Runaways, Demographic Considerations

Throughout history, runaways have persisted as a formidable presence on the social landscape. Leaving behind families and friends for any number of reasons, these youths are quickly and almost invariably exposed to the brutal reality of a harsh life on the streets. Idealized images of adventure-loving adolescents seeking an escape from the monotony of suburban life are quickly replaced by the more realistic and horrific images of physical and sexual abuse, exploitation, sexually transmitted diseases, hunger, and criminal activity. There are an estimated 1.3 million runaways on the streets of the United States, and the social consequences associated with this population extend far beyond these individuals and their immediate experiences. Families, communities, and the society as a whole are affected by this ever-increasing population of at-risk youths. With one child out of every seven running away from home at least once, it is likely that almost everyone has either experienced or knows someone who has experienced the running away of a child or adolescent. What is more, running away from home is coming to be regarded as a major international problem with children from all countries running away from home for a variety of substantiated and unsubstantiated reasons. As such, stringent efforts have been made to understand this unique subpopulation of youth within contemporary society.

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Social Issues