Runaway children: whose problem?

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7087.1064 (Published 12 April 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1064

A history of running away should be taken seriously: it may indicate abuse

  1. F Lawrenson, Community paediatriciana
  1. a Child Health Department, Leeds Community and Mental Health Services, St Mary's Hospital, Leeds LS12 3QE

    Surprisingly little is known about the extent or importance of running away, particularly in Britain. The police collect the only routine statistics, which are probably an underestimate because of variations in data collection and because parents may not report children who are thought to be safe or who have been abused or thrown out. The total number of reported runaways was 43 000 in 1990, a rough incidence of six runaways per 1000 children per year.1 By combining the police information with that from a school population study2 and projects involving young people living on the streets and in safe houses,3 it is possible to distinguish two main groups.

    The population survey showed that episodes of running away are quite common. One in seven children aged under 16 say that they have run away overnight, giving a rough incidence of 12 runaways per 1000 children per year. Most are one off episodes, and these children do not go far and generally go alone. They are …

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