Dr. Henry Paul, MD

Psychiatrist, Author and Educator


February 26th, 2015

“Debra Gwartney was trying to escape a failed marriage when she moved from Tucson, Ariz., to Eugene, Ore., in the early ’90s with her four daughters in tow. What the newly single mother didn’t foresee was that, as she fled from her past to a different city and job, her relationship with her girls would be forever transformed, too. Enraged by the divorce and the move, her two oldest daughters, Amanda and Stephanie, soon ran away, seeking adventure on the streets and shelter in abandoned buildings with other teenagers like them.” Salon.com, Runaway daughters, Katherine Mieszkowski, 3/7/09

6372318_sI just completed two blogs on why children runaway and thought it was important to make sure to discuss the stigma that is often associated with children who run away and their parents. It is almost always assumed when a child runs away that either the child is bad, the parents are bad or both. Children run away for many reasons, and they run away from “good parents,” too.

Children can be lured away, they run for the thrill of it, they believe that they are being treated unfairly, or they are abusing drugs or alcohol. They also run after divorce or after a move to a new community where they don’t feel they fit in. And, yes, children do run away from abusive homes – sexual abuse, physical abuse, drug abuse – all can lead a child to run.

There are many reasons that teenagers run. Whatever the reason for a child running the most important thing is to find them. First and foremost, a community needs to work together to find a missing child – much like they do when a child is abducted. Making sure children are safe is the priority, and they are not safe on the streets. Looking to blame or falling into the stereotypical “it must be bad parenting” or “they must be bad kids” accomplishes nothing. Never be quick to jump to conclusions.

When a teenager runs away, there are usually a lot of issues that will need to be addressed once the child is back in a safe environment. A lot of this can be done through counseling for both the runaway teen and the family. Understanding and working through the reasons that a teen ran in the first place is what will help prevent it from happening again.

Click the link above to read Debra Gwartney’s story for a glimpse into the world of teenage runaways. Here is an excerpt also from a blog that discussed what Gwartney encountered trying to find her daughters. She talks about the steps she took to find her daughters and the roadblocks she encountered because of laws she thought existed that didn’t.

This blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.

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