Risky situations experienced during runaway episodes: A qualitative exploration of the influence of context prior to and during a runaway



Couture S, Fournier E, Villeneuve MP, Laurier C. (2023). Les situations à risque vécues lors des épisodes de fugues: Une exploration qualitative de l'influence du contexte avant et pendant la fugue. Criminologie. 56(1), 187-214.


Youths running away from residential care centers worries authorities and families, as it interferes with ongoing rehabilitation efforts, while also exposing the runaways to a variety of situations where their safety or development can be put at risk. While intervention is complicated by both the multitude of factors that contribute to youths running away as well as the resulting consequences, these elements also represent noteworthy levers for potential intervention. Contextualizing these elements by documenting the experiences the youths face when running away is however necessary. Using interviews conducted with a sample of 15 young (15-17 years old) male runaways residing in a residential care center, this qualitative study first aims to describe the experience of running away in order to explore how the context (prior to and during) these episodes influenced the reported experiences. A thematic analysis of the interview transcripts reveals various risky situations reported by the young runaways and also brings to light four runaway experience profiles that can be distinguished on the basis of their lived experiences. Every one of the profiles mentions, as part of the reported experiences, dissatisfaction with the context of placement as well as the predominant role of the relational context. These results highlight the importance of seizing on moments of instability (e.g. the modification of an authorization to leave the residential care center) and of taking into account the specific experiences of different profiles during interventions.