We must nip the problem of teenagers prematurely leaving homes

In recent months this newspaper has had several reports of teenagers missing from their homes which is indeed not a healthy development and should become a worrisome matter for both parents and the society at large, because these youngsters could become easy victims to criminals and become influenced in being involved in anti-social activities thereby destroying their future or become a threat to a successful future. But this problem seems to be one affecting other societies as well because in this modern era children are being exposed to a multitude of influences.

In a paper by Carma Haley Shoemaker entitled: xCarma Haley Shoemaker Preventing Runaways – How to Keep Your Teen From Becoming One of the Thousands That Run Away Each Yearx

It is estimated that in the U.S. by the end of this year, about 275,000 teens will have “run away” from home, according to the National Organisation of Missing and Exploited Children. Thirty to 40 percent of these teens will become involved in some kind of “trouble” — they will be mugged, robbed, beaten, molested, raped or even killed.

But why do children leave their homes? This is not an easy question because it is not based on logical principles like that of a mathematical problem, but rather it is based on the most complex creation ever – the human mind. Therefore any analysis of such an issue will encompass sociological, emotional/psychological and hereditary factors.

The reasons behind a teenagerxs choice to leave home can often be serious. A 1998 study of teen runaways found that the majority left home because of perceived physical or emotional abuse, says Dr Paul Coleman, author of xHow to Say It to Your Kids.x

“These adolescents reported that running away was a last resort – not merely a bold attempt to annoy their parents – and many wanted an opportunity to reconcile with their families,” Dr Coleman says.

While some teens leave home for problems such as emotional, mental or physical abuse, others may have reasons that, to adults, may seem less “serious” but which hold just as much bearing on a teenxs decision to leave. “Secondary reasons include the inability to communicate with a parent or frequent arguments or confrontations with a stepparent, a chaotic household or to accompany a friend who is running away from home,” Dr Coleman adds.

According to Dr Lawrence Kutner it also helps to have a historical perspective on this. Although today’s families assume it to be normal, the idea of children living with their parents until they are eighteen is quite new. As recently as a century ago, when few teenagers attended high school, adolescents from all social classes were routinely placed with family members or even strangers when they reached puberty. Earlier generations did it at even younger ages. In the seventeenth century, children were often sent to learn a trade and live in other people’s homes when they were about ten or eleven.

In those days, the reasons for leaving one’s parents were more likely to be economic than psychological. For most families, adolescence was a time for work. Even those teenagers who went to school usually lived far from home.

The causes of this problem in our society could be similar to those in other societies but it is necessary for a proper research and study to determine the causes here because of obvious differences of culture, history, economics and some unique characteristics that distinguish our society from others.

It would appear that the level of parenting should be addressed because in todayxs society the demands of this skill are much higher than yesteryear because of the vast sociological, cultural, moral and socio-economic has undergone. In addition, economic and social pressures have grown on parents and all these factors have made parenting a much more difficult task. In this light, perhaps we need to intensify training programmes in parenting skills to meet the new challenges being encountered today.

Here is where our university, which ought to be integrated into issues of national development, in collaboration with other stakeholders such as the Ministries of Education, Labour, Human Services and Social Security and relevant non-governmental organisations could help to find the causes of this problem and provide adequate recommendations to address it before it becomes another xmonsterx which would only have adverse effects on the national developmental process if it is not nipped in the bud.


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