Teens running away has been a long time struggle to fully understand why they do it. There is no typical situation or runaway in any situation. Why do they do it? Sandra Cisneros writes about an awkward teen named Patricia Bernadette Benavidez, in a short story called “My Tacaya” meaning namesake, in her book Woman Hollering Creek. Patricia runs away and mistakenly is pronounced to be dead only to show up at the police station 3 days later and claims “I ain’t dead.” (Cisneros pg.40). While it is written in the perspective of a classmate, who is not her biggest fan, who just so happens to share her name, she tells about how Patricia works for her mean dad who she knows beats her brother and thinks he might do the same to here. That is why she is believed to have ran away. There are many reasons why teens runaway.
Personal Reasons. Some Teens feel that their own personally crisis is too much and feel if they tell their families they will be forced to leave any way. Some runaway because they become pregnant, or they are bisexual, gay or lesbian and fear the repercussions. Though Patricia is not said to have any of these issues she is said to be “weird” and “kids like that always try to hard to fit in.” (cisneros pg.37). Interviews with runaway teens by the National Conference of State Legislatures stated “trans-gendered, bisexual, gay, lesbian and teens unsure of their sexual orientation often fail to communicate with family members, have negative peer relationships and also experience violence because of their sexual orientations.” These conditions make running an option for many teenagers. Girls make up approximately 75% of the runaway population, and anywhere from 6% – 22% of these runaway girls are pregnant and without a permanent home, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Parent or family conflicts. Some runaway simply due to repeated fights with their parents or other family members. Between 1.6 and 2.8 million Teens (ages 12 – 17) run away each year. Almost half of the runaways reported by the National Runaway Safe-line list the cause for running as a “conflict with a parent or guardian.” It may not have been the girl from the story that is having reoccurring arguments with her dad but is is her brother. “They beat each other. It was one of those fist fights that finally did it-drove the boy off forever.”(Cisneros pg.37). Parents tell some teens to leave the house after unresolved issues, and these “throwaway” youth usually come from families on public assistance or housing.
Addiction. Addiction plays a major role for teenagers to run away. Family members who are dependent on drugs and alcohol create a hostile environment for teens. This also gives teens easy access to these drugs and become addicts themselves. Drug abuse and excessive drinking can lead to arguments with family members when under the influence. 80% of youth runaways have a history of drug use and alcoholism (Mello). Many of these runaways are unable or unwilling to go home or may not even have homes to go home to. Some even turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with the fact that they have no homes to go to.
Abuse. One of the main reasons others believe teens run away is when faced with physical, emotional or sexual abuse. The National Runaway Safeline says “runaways list abuse as a major reason for running, and many of these teens also fear abuse from family when returning home after a spending time as a runaway.” This is the main reason thought to be why Patricia ran away. “Who knows what she had to put up with. Maybe her father beat each other. He beat the brother, I know that.” (Cisneros pg.37). Children between the ages of 12 and 17 are the most likely to be sexually abused, and the abuser in almost half of the known causes of a runaway are family or extended family members. Abuse by family members make running away appear to be the best option for teenagers who are unable to or to frightened to find help to change an abusive home life.
Mental Health Issues. A lot of runaways have mental health issues that cloud their judgment and makes their decision making rash. Patricia did stand out to those in school, she made up a fake British accent and being Mexican made her stand out even more. “The girl had problems” (cisneros pg.37). Others deal with such amounts of stress due to poverty that they runaway being rooted to mental health (Mello). Knowing which problem came first, the running away or the mental health issues, worsens treatment within the homeless community.
They are many reasons why one may feel the need to run away but there are other options and places to go in these situations. Rather it will be a friend a shelter or a program there are more options for youth in need than just running away. Most runaways become homeless adults and It is estimated that 5,000 unaccompanied youth die each year as a result of assault, illness, or suicide. States have started certain policies regarding youth homelessness and runaways. Giving these kids an education and money for shelters and transitional housing. Other policies include counseling and outreach services to already homeless youth or youth at risk of becoming homeless.
There is no known way to stop a runaway but there is signs to look for. Change in behavior, mood swings, fighting, breaking rules, drug use, sexual activity, and other negative changes. Main signs of running away could be collecting money, keeping a bag packed, or threatening to runaway. Try to keep a open relationship and talk about the
hard stuff with out yelling, disrespect and accusing. Keeping a youth safe and happy at home is not always easy and in some cases not done due to poor home situation and abuse there is always a better option than being a runaway. For more information as a parent or youth call 1-800-run-away or visit http://www.1800runaway.org/homeless-teen-research.
Cisneros, Sandra. Woman Hollering Creek “My Tacaya” pp. 36-40
Martinez, Ruby J. “Understanding Runaway Teens.” Journal of child… Vol, 19 no. 2, May 2006, pp. 77-88
Mello, Zena R. “Time perspective, psychological outcomes, and risky behavior among runaway adolescents.” Applied Developmental Health Science, Feb. 2007, pp.1-11
National Runaway Safeline “Homeless Teen and Runaway Youth Research from NRS.” www.1800runaway.org/homeless-teen-research
National Conference of State Legislatures. http://www.ncsl.org