Risk factors associated with children who runaway or are reported missing

Hutchings, Emma Lauren (2017) Risk factors associated with children who runaway or are reported missing. DForenPsy thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The overarching aim of this thesis is to further understanding and knowledge of risk factors relevant to children who runaway. More specifically to; identify risk factors most relevant to children running away; establish whether risk factors can be used to distinguish between those children reported missing once versus those reported on multiple occasions; and evaluate assessment methods currently being used with this group.

The systematic review explores risk factors associated with children who runaway. Successful identification of risk factors can be used to inform risk assessment which in turn inform intervention strategies. Through an electronic search 573 references were identified since 2002. However, only 15 references were included in the final review once inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied. Through this review it was identified that runaways are a heterogeneous group. Risk factors most consistently identified to be associated with running away spanned multiple levels including; gender, socioeconomic status, family structure, history of abuse/neglect, substance use and school attachment/engagement. Implications for intervention are discussed.

The empirical study utilised data collected by the Gwent Missing Children’s Team collected over a one year period (N= 523) to explore risk factors associated with repeat missing reports. The aim of this study was to develop a model that could be utilised in practice to identify those most at risk of repeat missing incidences in order to direct resources effectively. Through logistic regression analyses it was found that five risk factors can be used to distinguish between those children reported missing once (low risk, N= 275) versus those reported missing on multiple occasions (high risk, N= 248). This provided a simple summation checklist that can correctly classify 70.4% of missing cases. This checklist can be used to inform resource allocation with those children identified as high risk warranting more comprehensive intervention and support.

The case study presented the assessment and intervention of an adolescent reported missing to Gwent Police. The aim of this study was to provide an in-depth analysis of a missing child case making links to relevant psychological theory and highlighting implications on practice. This case study demonstrated the cross over between running away and sexual exploitation and highlighted the importance in providing specialist intervention services in order to reduce risk of harm through repeat running away.

Finally, a critique of a risk assessment tool widely used in Wales with runaways who are suspected to be at risk of sexual exploitation is presented. Within this critique it was found that the Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Framework (SERAF) combines consistency in approach with ease and efficiency of identification and intervention for children at risk of, or abused through, sexual exploitation. However, the tool requires empirical validation and reliability analyses before it can be considered a scientific assessment of risk.

Overall, this thesis provides evidence for the use of risk factors in identifying children who are likely to be reported missing or runaway. It suggests that this group is heterogeneous and that risk factors relevant to predicting running away span multiple levels. This suggests that intervention should be holistic and target identified risk factors. Risk assessments currently utilised in respect of this group require validation. Further research to inform such risk assessments is also recommended.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (DForenPsy)
Supervisors: Browne, K.
Chou, Shihning
Keywords: Missing children, Runaways, Risk assessment, Risk factors
Subjects: W Medicine and related subjects (NLM Classification) > WS Pediatrics
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Item ID: 42860
Depositing User: Hutchings, Emma
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2017 12:49
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2017 00:38
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/42860

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