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July/August 2010Vol. 11, No. 6Study on Runaway Youth Examines Lifetime Prevalence

A new study from the Urban Institute uses new methodology to yield estimates of the number of youth who run away from home, the number of times they run away, and their age when they first run away. In On the Prevalence of Running Away From Home, author Michael R. Pergamit draws on the data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997 cohort (NLSY97), to develop measures not generally found in the literature. The data follow a cohort of youths from age 12 to age 18. The measures combine to provide an estimate of the lifetime prevalence of runaway behavior.

Results indicate that nearly one in five U.S. youths will run away from home before age 18, and almost 30 percent will do so three or more times, greatly heightening their risk of violence and many other dangers. Females and Black youth run away the most often, although findings show a heterogeneous population in terms of their runaway histories. The author also points out that most runaway and homeless youth have histories of runaway (and throwaway) episodes.

The publication is available on the Urban Institute website:

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The National Runaway Switchboard provides an array of services to help keep runaway and at-risk youth safe and off the streets. Foremost among its services is a 24-hour crisis line staffed by counselors who provide free, anonymous, and confidential assistance to a teenager who is thinking of running away from home, has a friend who has run away and is looking for help, or is a runaway ready to go home. They also can provide advice to teachers looking for information to pass along to students about alternatives to running away from home.

The National Runaway Switchboard services are provided in part through funding from the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) in the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The FYSB website provides resources for parents and the media, a runaway prevention curriculum, and materials for Runaway Prevention Month held each November.