The meaning of running away for girls

Einat Peled*, Ayelet Cohavi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Objective: The aim of this qualitative research was to understand how runaway girls perceive the processes involved in leaving home and the meaning they attribute to it. Method: Findings are based on in-depth interviews with 10 Israeli girls aged 13-17 with a history of running away from home. Results: The meaning of running away as it emerged from the girls' descriptions of their lives prior to leaving home was that of survival - both psychological and physical. The girls' stories centered on their evolving experiences of alienation, loneliness and detachment, and the failure of significant relationships at home and outside of home to provide them with the support they needed. These experiences laid the ground for the "final moments" before leaving, when a feeling of "no alternative," a hope for a better future, and various particular triggers led the girls to the decision to leave home. Conclusion: Participants' insights about the dynamics leading to running-away center on the meaning of family relationships, particularly those with the mother, as constituting the girl's psychological home. The girls seemed to perceive running away as an inevitability, rather than a choice, and even portrayed the running away as "living suicide." Yet, their stories clearly demonstrate their ability to cope and the possession of strengths and skills that enabled them to survive in extremely difficult home situations. Practice implications: The findings of this research highlight the importance of improving services for reaching out and supporting girls who are on the verge of running away from home. Such services should be tailored to the needs of girls who experience extreme but often silenced distress at home, and should facilitate alternative solutions to the girls' plight other than running away. An understanding of the dynamics leading to running away from the girls' perspective has the potential to improve the efficacy of services provided by contributing to the creation of a caring, empowering, understanding and trustful professional relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)739-749
Number of pages11
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2009


  • Girls in distress
  • Runaway girls
  • The meaning of running away


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