Sociology, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version



Child Abuse & Neglect 30:10 (October 2006), pp. 1117–1128; doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2006.03.008


Copyright © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. Used by permission.


Problem — Various demographic and familial risk factors have been linked to runaway behavior. To date, there has not been a systematic investigation of the impact of size of community on runaway behavior. This study will compare runaways from smaller cities and rural areas to their urban counterparts.

Methods — A convenience sample of 602 adolescents was interviewed between 1995 and August of 1996 in Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas, USA. Multiple regression was used to examine the association between gender, neglect, sexual abuse, physical abuse, geographic and family structure change, and community size of first runaway to predict age at first runaway, deviant subsistence strategies, and street victimization.

Results — Findings indicate that adolescents exposed to neglect (β = −.20) and sexual abuse (β = −.16) ran away sooner and were more likely to be victimized on the street. Rural adolescents who experienced higher levels of physical abuse relied more heavily on deviant subsistence strategies (β = .15) and remained in abusive homes longer (β = .15) than their similarly situated urban counterparts.

Conclusions — Rural youth who have been subjected to elevated levels of familial abuse are at greater risk of deviant subsistence strategies, which increase the likelihood of street victimization.