More Parental Involvement Means Fewer Runaways

By Michele Molnar — August 01, 2012 2 min read
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Parental involvement in schools is one predictor for adolescent runaway behavior, according to a study released today by the National Runaway Switchboard (NRS).

Specifically, the study found that, in schools with more than 10 percent of parents involved in the parent teacher association, the “night away” rate is 2.1 percent lower than in schools with lower levels of involvement.

It’s more common for youth to run away who attend schools in the West, have less parent involvement at school or have schools with larger average class sizes, according to the research.

The findings are part of an analysis of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health data set conducted by Jennifer Benoit-Bryan, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois in Chicago, for NRS, which provides 24/7 hotline and online services for runaway, homeless and at-risk youth.

According to the organization, it is the first study to investigate the correlation between school characteristics and adolescent runaway behavior, which includes spending the night away from home without parental permission.

“Studies like this help the National Runaway Switchboard better understand what’s affecting today’s youth so it can continue to provide programs and services that help them,” said Maureen Blaha, NRS executive director, in a statement announcing the results. “This study offers compelling evidence that schools need to have a comprehensive focus on the runaway issue.”

“While a fair amount of research has analyzed the effects of school characteristics on adolescent behaviors including sexual behavior and academic achievement, the connection between school characteristics and adolescent runaway behavior has never been examined,” continued Benoit-Bryan in the statement.

“The significance of the parent involvement variable indicates that having parents that are very involved in their children’s schools may reduce the likelihood of some rebellious behaviors such as spending a night away from home without permission,” Benoit-Bryan wrote in her report.

“Higher parental involvement in schools may reduce rebellious behavior because parents have more time or are more committed to being involved in their kids’ lives. It may also be that schools where most of the parents are involved increase parental network ties, which helps them keep better track of their adolescents,” she added in the report.

Additional findings show:

  • Both runaway episodes and nights away without permission are more common for students in schools with average class sizes over 30.
  • Students from schools in the south are the least likely to both run away (3.3 percent) and spend a night away (11.2 percent) from home. Students from schools in the west are the most likely to run away (5.2 percent) and spend a night away from home (16.2 percent).

An executive summary of the report is available for download.

A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.