The Causes and Consequences of Running Away: What Difference Does Gender Make?
Although gender is the strongest correlate of delinquent behavior, most delinquency theories were formulated to explain male delinquency, and the academic literature has ignored status offenses such as running away, although this deviance comprises a substantial and controversial role in girls’ offending. This dissertation adds to the literature by examining the relationship of running away and status offending to concurrent delinquency and criminal behavior throughout the life-course. Also, while Power-Control Theory is reported to be sensitive to girls’ lives, this theory has not been sufficiently tested or used in an explanation of exclusively status offenses. Examining Power-Control Theory will uncover explanatory variables relevant to status offending, as well as any differences in the correlates between delinquent and status offending. The results suggest running away is related to juvenile delinquency and adult offending in a similar manner for both males and females, and, abuse experiences increase subsequent offending among runaways. However, the results provide little support for Power-Control, although some facets such as taste for risk and parental control were significant. In fact, daughters from command-class mothers actually had lower rates of runaway behavior. Three main conclusions are contributed: First, status offending is significantly related to concurrent and future deviance, possibly by providing contact with delinquent peers. Most status offenders, like most delinquent offenders, desist as they age into adulthood. Parental control and risk taking attitudes, variables often found in the delinquency literature, are also related to status offending. Second, abuse histories are significant for boys as well girls. Abuse has mostly been studied as an important factor for only female offending, yet this dissertation found abuse histories should be a focus of study in male delinquency as well. Third, this dissertation provides further evidence liberation-based theories are an inadequate explanation of female deviance. Although these theories have received little empirical support, this explanation is still accepted and wide-spread in academic theories and the popular literature and media. Suggestions for future research and policy implications conclude this paper.