A Multi-Level Analysis of the Issue of Runaway Youth: Precursors, Consequences and Harm Reduction


Benoit-Bryan, J. M. (2014). A Multi-Level Analysis of the Issue of Runaway Youth: Precursors, Consequences and Harm Reduction.


Over a million youth run away from home in a twelve month period (Hammer, Finkelhor, & Sedlak, 2002), yet researchers know surprisingly little about the precursors and consequences of runaway behavior on these youth. This study uses a framework of multiple levels of a youth’s environment spanning individual, family, peer, school, and neighborhood level variables, to examine the runaway issue from multiple angles (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). Analysis was undertaken using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a nationally representative sample of over 15,000 youth in grades 7-12 who were followed into young adulthood with four waves of interviews. A number of statistical techniques including crosstab analysis, logistic regression, linear regression, and hierarchical linear modeling were used to answer the research questions. The two main research questions under investigation include what the precursors of runaway behavior are and whether or not there are any long term consequences of runaway behavior that persist into adulthood. The results indicated that the multi-level, environmental approach to this complex problem is useful, as characteristics were found at each of the five levels of analysis that were correlated with runaway behavior. In addition, long term harms of runaway behavior were found even with a strong cohort of controls included in the models across multiple health, economic, and criminal justice outcomes. This research frames the issue of runaway youth as a wicked problem, and offers possible policy solutions to be tested in future research.



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Public Administration


Benoit-Bryan, J. M.

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University of Illinois at Chicago

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