Runaway behaviour in group homes: what are runaways trying to tell us ?

Marie Robert, Researcher, Université du Québec en Outaouais, Canada

Rana Karam, Phd student, Université du Québec en Outaouais, Canada

Tamara Leonora, Researcher, France

We explore runaway behaviour in foster care through the lens of Lazarus and Folkman’s (1984) transactional model of stress and coping. To better understand the context and meaning of this behaviour in these troubled youth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 runaway adolescents in foster care. Thematic and conceptual analyses were used. The foster care system’s response to runaway behaviour was also examined by constructing foster trajectories for every youth in the study. The results show that running away can be understood as a coping mechanism that displays adolescents’ need for connection, empowerment, and emotion regulation, factors not addressed in foster placement. The trajectories suggest that foster care system intervention plays a role in placement disruption and runaway behaviour. In light of these findings, changes in foster care structure and policies seem essential in order to provide stability and continuity of care, as well as an environment where connections, empowerment, and emotion expression and regulation are possible to achieve.

Key-words: Runaway Behaviour; Coping; Conduct Disorder;  Youth Intervention; Qualitative Research.

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