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Predictors of Police Contact Among Midwestern Homeless and Runaway Youth

NCJ Number
Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice Volume: 6 Issue: 3 Dated: July 2008 Pages: 227-239
Lisa Thrane; Xiaojin Chen; Kurt Johnson; Les B. Whitbeck
Date Published
July 2008
13 pages
The purpose of this study was to assess whether police harassment and arrest were affected more by dysfunctional home lives and minor delinquency rather than by more proximate risky street behavior.
In the study sample of homeless and runaway youth, several differences were noted between the predictors of arrest and police harassment. First, path-analytic techniques demonstrated that having deviant friends promoted harassment but not arrest. Second, substance use was the impetus for police harassment, whereas age at first runaway was consequential for arrest. Third, physically abused youth encountered more harassment, yet minor delinquent behavior increased the risk of arrest. Support was found for distinctive pathways to harassment and arrest. It is concluded that the paths to harassment and arrest are mainly divergent and that the amplification of street factors is more pronounced for police harassment. Research has substantiated that homeless and runaway youth are at high risk for offending and deviant behavior. Although gender, abuse, and deviant peers had been implicated in arrests among homeless youth, less is known about whether these precursors operate similarly for police harassment, as well as for post-runaway arrest. In a study of 361 midwestern homeless and runaway youth, this study explored the pathways to police harassment and arrest, unraveling similarities and differences. Figures, table, and references