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Study Tears Down Stereotypes of Runaways

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Most runaway teens return home on their own shortly after leaving, and few fit the stereotype of deeply troubled youth, according to researchers at UCLA.

Science Daily reported Dec. 5 that researcher Norweeta G. Milburn of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA said that stereotypes of runaways have been formed because most studies have focused on teens who repeatedly run away.

“Our finding goes against the grain of what most people envision a homeless teenager's life to be — a life filled with maltreatment, substance abuse, disorganization, conflict and violence,” said Milburn. “While that is certainly true of chronic runaways, in fact, more than two-thirds of newly homeless youth leave the streets, resolve their family differences and go home.

“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,” Milburn said.

Teens who maintain relationships with non-runaway friends, have stayed in school and sense the support of their parents — especially mothers — are more likely to return home, the research found.

The study, which tracked 183 newly homeless adolescents in Los Angeles, appears in the December 2009 issue of the Journal of Research on Adolescence.

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