Why do young people run away from home?

Why do young people go missing

No child wants to run away from home. They don’t long to abandon a warm place to sleep, a roof over their head or their most treasured possessions. But often the situations a vulnerable child faces in their home life become unbearable. Most of the time when a young person runs away, it’s because they have no choice.

Often it is older children who find themselves in scenarios where they are forced to leave home, and there are a number of reasons why teenagers run away. If you’re a parent, it’s especially important to know why people run away from home, so that you can try and avoid finding yourself in a situation where your child might go missing.

Below are a number of the most common reasons why teens run away from home, and details of the signs that someone is about to run away. If you think a young person you know may be in – or at risk of being involved in – one of the situations mentioned below, you should contact the police on their non-emergency number, or inform a professional such as a doctor, teacher or social worker.

Reasons why young people run away from home

They’re being groomed – exploiters can take advantage of young people both in person and online. They will use whatever means they can to talk to a child, often showering them with compliments, gifts and promises of love. Exploiters will earn a child’s trust, and then encourage them to leave home – because they know that this will leave the child totally reliant upon them for support. Creating a situation where a child is dependent on them makes it so much easier for an exploiter to force that young person to commit crime, or be sexually abused, in exchange for food and a place to stay. 

If you notice a young person who suddenly has lots of money or new clothes/phone/laptop and they can’t explain how they paid for them, it may well be that someone is giving them these items to groom them. In the same way, if a child is being secretive about where they’re going, or who they’re spending time with in person or online, then it’s worth paying extra close attention to their movements and talking to a professional about your concerns.    

Family problems – if a young person is arguing a lot with family members, it can take a toll on them to such an extent that they run away to escape the conflict they face at home. Young people can argue with their parents about a large number of subjects, ranging from relatively minor issues pocket money and levels of personal freedom, to more major things such as a parent’s choice of new partner ordomestic abuse. Constant arguments and conflict at home can be a major factor in why kids run away, so if you’re witnessing these kind of occurrences regularly, make sure you’re extra vigilant with regards to a young person’s well-being.

Abuse – abuse can be both physical and mental, and it can have a devastating effect on a young person’s development and future prospects. Signs of abuse can vary enormously, from physical indicators such as bruises, cuts and broken bones, to less obvious signs such as reduced attendance at school, poor hygiene and a child suddenly becoming  

If you think a child is being abused either physically or mentally, don’t hesitate to call social services or inform a local young people’s . 

Drugs and alcohol – when people ask themselves why do teenagers run away from home, they often consider drug and alcohol abuse to be one of the most obvious reasons. But usually they only consider drugs and alcohol in terms of the young person being addicted. In fact parental substance misuse is also a common reason why people run away from home – the domestic environment becomes unbearable for children because of their parent’s addiction. Either way, drug and alcohol abuse often brings adults and children into contact with criminals and encourages a dependency that can be exploited by others – indeed criminals often use a child’s addiction to lure them away from their home and onto the streets.

If you see a child or their parent abusing drugs or alcohol, be aware that they may be at an increased risk of running away and, if appropriate, refer them to a local support service or notify the police.

Find out more about why children run away from home, and what we are doing to help them.