Runaway behavior among children in residential care in St. Petersburg: A qualitative study
Background. Runaway behavior among children in residential care is a serious social problem in all countries of the world. Existing scientific data on risk factors and motives of runaway from out-of-home care may not be absolutely relevant to the Russian cultural context.
Objective. To describe risk factors and the motives that cause children to runaway from residential care.
Design. A qualitative study that included 2 focus groups with staff and graduates of residential care supplemented by the analysis of 23 cases of child runaways from residential care in St. Petersburg.
Results. The study revealed the following runaway risk factors and motives: 1) running to parents or relatives, 2) romantic and/or sexual relations, 3) interaction with peers, 4) psychiatric problems, 5) addictive behavior, 6) avoidance of conflicts, 7) physical or emotional violence, 8) unmotivated runaways for entertainment, 9) problems adapting to the care institution, 10) dissatisfaction with the conditions at the care institution. Moreover, in this study, two different types of runaways have been identified, including relatively “true” runaways and those who are not psychologically experienced as such, but are only disobeying the formal rules of the care institution.
Conclusions. Runaways of children from residential care are extremely heterogeneous in nature. In further empirical studies, it should be taken into account that runaways may be true and formal. There can be multiple reasons for running away: the care institution itself, a child’s personality, or his or her social network outside of the care institution.