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Most Runaway Teens Return Home According to Study by UCLA

By December 8, 2009

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A study on run-away teens focused on teens who leave home but go back. For the study, the researchers followed 183 newly homeless adolescents over a two-year period in Los Angeles. The article rightly points out that most studies on homeless teens focus on chronic runaways, anti-social behaviors and life on the streets during the time the teen is homeless, where this study shows why teens go back home and provides proof that most do. The article goes on to quote Norweeta G. Milburn, a research psychologist in the department of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA:

"Further, the key appears to be that a family intervention, no matter how brief, can improve the chances that new runaways will go home and stay home."

"Most research has focused on the one-third of adolescents who chronically run away. A frequent cause of that, Milburn said, is indeed family abuse."

And particularly key was support from their mothers. "The importance of a supportive mother is striking and appears to be especially influential for the teen," Milburn said. "A majority of the newly homeless adolescents in this sample reported having a mother from whom they could receive emotional support."

Most important of all, though, said Milburn, is early intervention, "before family relationships deteriorate and negative peer influences take hold."

I find that this is an interesting study and I'd like to see more done like it. It is heartening to see that the family and strong bonds with parents are key to keeping teens at home.

Asking our community of parents: Has your teen ever runaway? Please share your thoughts, advice and opinions on the study in our comments area.

More: Teenagers Running Away

December 10, 2009 at 12:55 pm
(1) Virginia says:

This research article struck close to home for me. This past summer, my teenage daughter (age 17) and I went through an extremely rough patch. She was behving very disrespectfully to myself and my husband. She then informed me that she was planning on moving out of the house and moving in with a friend in a couple of weeks. After that anouncement, she became even more disrespectful. It was to a point where I couldn’t let this continue as it was creating such chaos in the home. I told her not to come home until she could treat me, my husband and our son (4 years) with respect. The following a.m., I decided to read her diary (which I never do) because I needed to know what was going on with her. I discovered she was using marijuana heavily everyday. Her biological father was supplying her. The things she was doing on top of that was so shocking and devastating, I can’t even describe the pain I felt. It was like being thrust into the twilight zone. My daughter had always been the one with a head on her shoulders, mature and responsible with morals and values that she held dearly to her heart. I called and confronted her with the information I had read. When she found out I learned the information from her diary, she came home to get it. This turned into a physical confrontation. I tried blocking her way so she couldn’t get her diary (I wanted to take it to the police as evidence against her biological father). Then I tried blocking her way so she couldn’t leave with the diary. I told her she could leave but the diary had to stay. I must say I wound up with a lot of bruises. I called the police. We live in a small town and the police knew my daughter very well because she worked at the gas station. One of the officers, she was close to, had a good conversation with her. I work in the same building as the addictions counsellor and my husband and I talked with him about it. I also talked with my couselling group. The same message I got from the police officer, the addictions cousellor and my counsellor is focus on the relationship. Keep the relationship, build it and make it stronger. Children/teens will return if there is a good, loving foundation and you keep the focus there. Let them know that they are loved and that you want them home and that they are always welcome home. My daughter and I saw my counsellor together. With in a month, she came home. For the most part, things are good between us. We still have bumpy patches but when we talk about them; talk about our true feelings around the issue; and have our cry together; then we continue building our relationship together. So no matter the situation, if you are loving, supportive and always have the door open for them, they will return. Like the addictions counsellor said “It could take a month or two or a year or two but they will come back.”

December 11, 2009 at 7:06 am
(2) Marion Bryant says:

My son was having difficulty with alcohol, so I agreed to have him committed to Health and Human Services for treatment.

The initial placement according to him was focusing on “brain washing” him and not interested in treating him for his drug and alcohol problems. He ran away from the group home for almost 6 months.

The problem being that to have the treatment he had to become a “state ward” which I thought would not include giving up my parental rights.

What proceded was absolute horror!!!! Over the course of the next several months I had NO support from their agency and when I finally located him and he wanted to return to the family home they objected stating he must return to a detention facility.

Since then I have had contacts with the CEO of the agency as well as the Governor of the State and currently have an attorney handling the matter.

The problem was not my home, the problem was HHS.

I don’t advise ANYONE to trust this organization for giving a “damn” about your child. I was persistent and finally located my son after several months, but to date still don’t have him back in my home as he remains detained in their facilities.

I had a daughter who once ran from home as she felt I was being too strict when I denied her talking to her boyfriend for a week for disobeying family rules. She returned in a few days and I felt she learned a valuable lesson.

It’s not easy for these kids to live on the street, but I always asked that they call me daily and let me know that they were safe and that I would always be there when they were ready to return with open, loving arms.

January 12, 2010 at 4:35 pm
(3) AZDad2009 says:

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC located at http://www.ncmec.org), the national clearing house for all missing children (think Adam Walsh), can be very helpful to families of missing, endangered runaways, abducted, family abducted or exploited children. They also have a trained volunteer group called TeamHOPE(www.teamhope.org) that works with parents/families of the missing to listen and provide some & resources. Call and ask if you need someone to talk with . All TH members have had a child go missing
If your child is missing, call 911 immediately and report it, get Law Enforcement to put the them to get it on the NCIC database immediately and then call NCMEC & get a case opened.

If your child is missing, also contact the National Runaway Switchboard (1-800-786-2929 – 1800RUNAWAY) where you can leave a positive message for your teen/child. The counselors will work with you also.

To Marion’s comment, when a child is in danger, there should never be an expectation of privacy. Trust with validation is the best we can do as parents. Teens don’t “process life” like adults so later on, regardless of how “angery” they may be when you search them/their stuff, bust them, etc., they WILL appreciate you as a parent all their days. Sometimes, tough love is the best love. Any teen that uses violence against a parent needs to be charged for their own good and their future relationships. There are no acceptable excuses (drugs, mental health, anger, etc). Has to be zero tolerance. The sooner they learn that, the better off they will be in the long run.

February 3, 2010 at 6:04 pm
(4) magdelena08 says:

Well in my home all my step daughters have runaway for varying reasons. It is a painful situation but we always take them back. it causes me a lot of guilt and unhappiness there really should be a group for parents who have experienced this Most of the conflict has been betwen my stepdaughters and there Dad They have a relationship with their Mom but I think it is more of a ‘friend ” situation than a mother daughter one so I find it interesting that that is one of the important factors that help kids come home. I have tried to fix their relationship with their Dad who is not very affectionate but is great in a crisis of which we have many…. but no matter what I do it never seems to help

April 26, 2010 at 10:14 pm
(5) kenarose says:

this is kinda sucky if you ask me you could have all the info and statistics in the world but if some one wants to and i mean really wants to leave i highly doudt surronding them with what the want to leave behind at least to see wha other things are out there i think parnents shelter there kids so much that they have to find other ways out drugs, achol, smoking, cutting etc. i understand with all the people who go around kidnapin little kids and stuff but if you put them in a cage they gonna want out i think that alot of the reson people runaway is because the parnts wont let them grow up no matter how many times you say grow up or act your age it wont sink in unless you let them

February 26, 2013 at 10:44 am
(6) Amanda Serrano says:

I have a 17 yr old daughter that I love very much she is also a mom to a beautiful little girl she got mad at me because I would not let her date this older guy I was just trying to protect her she took off with the baby and didn’t hear from her in 8 days when I finally did I was able to talk her in to letting me bring the baby home she still will not come home what do I do

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