There is an increased concern that youths are leaving home earlier than ever. According to the National Network for Youth, 38% of runaways are under the age of 14. Clinicians, as well as researchers, who have worked with the population of runaway youth recognize that there are two distinct groups (i.e., voluntary and involuntary). Previous research has largely neglected the difference between those youths who have left home on their own initiative (voluntary) and those youths who were forced to leave their home (involuntary.)
I hypothesized that involuntary youth will predominantly male and older in age. I examined a number of variables to assess if there are differences between these two groups of runaways. The findings support past research in that more females are voluntary runaways than males. Surprisingly, there were no significant age differences between the voluntary and involuntary runaways. The major difference that emerged was that involuntary females had a significantly higher incidence of crime, especially violent crimes, than voluntary female runaways. I also found that males were more likely to use drugs than females. These findings suggest that there may be differences between Midwestern runaways and runaways found in larger cities (i.e., New York).
Colburn '99, Darcia A., "Voluntary versus Involuntary Runaway Youth: Basic Demographics, Characteristics and Family Relations" (1999). Honors Projects. Paper 95.