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J Adolesc Health. 2012 Nov;51(5):415-21. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.04.002. Epub 2012 May 23.

Children who run away from home: risks for suicidal behavior and substance misuse.

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Department of Health Sciences, College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology, University of Leicester, Leicester, United Kingdom.



The primary aim of this study is to examine the extent to which running away from home as a child is associated with behavioral problems and victimization during childhood and with suicidal behavior and substance abuse during early adulthood.


A random probability sample comprising 7,461 respondents was interviewed for the 2007 survey of psychiatric morbidity of adults in England. A subsample of 16- to 34-year-old individuals was selected for secondary analysis (N = 2,247). All survey respondents were asked whether they had run away from home and asked specific questions on being physically, emotionally and sexually abused as children. They were also asked about suicidal behavior and alcohol and drug dependence in early adulthood.


Approximately 7% of 16- to 34-year-old individuals reported running away from home before the age of 16 years, with higher rates in women than in men (9.8% compared with 5.3%). Overall, 45.3% reported being bullied, 25.3% experienced violence at home, and 8.8% reported unwanted sexual intercourse. Runaways were far more likely than other children to have suffered victimization and family difficulties and to exhibit behavioral problems. Adults who reported running away from home were three times more likely than other adults to have thought about or attempted suicide, but the relationship with substance abuse was far less pronounced.


Sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, along with family difficulties, can all impact children who run away from home. Running away from home was strongly associated with suicidal behavior in adulthood, regardless of other childhood adversities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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