Family Functioning and Predictors of Runaway Behavior Among At-Risk Youth
This journal article describes a study that examined the predictors of runaway behavior among at-risk youth participating in a parent-youth mediation program. The researchers used longitudinal data from 111 at-risk families to identify proximal predictors of runaway behavior over a 12-week period (10 percent of youth in the study ran away during this time). They found that poorer youth- and parent-rated family functioning, past runaway behavior, and other problems (e.g. substance abuse, delinquency) predicted running away. However, poorer perceived academic functioning was not a predictor of running away. The results show a relationship between youth-rated family functioning and runaway behavior. However, this effect became insignificant after accounting for past runaway behavior and other problem behaviors, both of which remained significant predictors. These findings suggest that youth who run away may be engaged in a more pervasive pattern of problematic behavior and that screening and prevention programs need to address the cycle of adolescent defiant behavior associated with running away. The authors discuss recommendations for clinical practice with this at-risk population.