Studies involving clinical samples of adolescents indicate that running away is a common problem associated with substantial emotional impairment, yet little information is available from community-based samples. This study aimed to investigate runaway behaviour in female adolescents with and without a history of maltreatment in childhood.
We analyzed data from a province-wide community survey conducted in Ontario ( n = 3760 girls and women, aged 15 to 64 years). Respondents returned a self-completed questionnaire regarding their history of maltreatment as children. Psychiatric disorder was assessed with a revised version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview.
Respondents who reported physical abuse only, sexual abuse only, and physical abuse with sexual abuse were 2 to 4 times more likely to report running away from home before age 16 years. Parental psychiatric disorder, respondent psychiatric disorder, respondent age, and income were also significant correlates of running away.
Understanding the relation between exposure to maltreatment as a child, psychiatric disorder, and running away in women is important for determining ways to prevent a behaviour that puts youth at high risk for a wide range of difficulties.