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Street youth's life-course transitions

Childhood: Changing Contexts

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1419-5, eISBN: 978-1-84950-533-8

Publication date: 14 April 2008


Social science and media depictions of youth living on our city streets typically focus on their “risk behaviours,” especially illicit drug use and unprotected sex, the social environmental challenges they face, in particular higher likelihood of sexual and physical assault and homicide (Tyler, Hoyt, & Whitbeck, 2000; Auerswald & Eyre, 2002; Pedersen & Hegna, 2003; Brooks, Milburn, Rotheram, & Witkin, 2004; Ensign & Bell, 2004; Raleigh-DuRoff, 2004; Hyde, 2005; Witkin et al., 2005) and their delinquent/criminal behaviour (Hartnagel, 1998). This focus on the multiple “risks” that street youth face has been accompanied by the search for determinants of the risk factors for street involvement, such as parental substance abuse and child neglect. Female street youth have been depicted as particularly vulnerable, partly because once on the street, they come under the control of male recruiters who make the girls drug-dependent and force them into trading sexual favours for money or in-kind goods. According to Bagley and Young (1987, p. 23), “the girl who finally tries prostitution is one who is already degraded and demoralized, in a state of psychological bondage, with grossly diminished self-confidence.” Adults who exploit these female street youth are believed to take advantage of their feelings of disconnectedness and low self-esteem and isolation (Silbert & Pines, 1981, 1982a, 1982b) and addiction to substances (Green & Goldberg, 1993). Yet, many females who were victims of childhood physical and sexual abuse do not end up on the street, nor do all those who were abused and end up on the street (male as well as female) become involved in prostitution, and, finally, many males and females who become involved in prostitution have no history of early abuse (Hagan & McCarthy, 1997).


Benoit, C., Jansson, M., Hallgrimsdotter, H. and Roth, E. (2008), "Street youth's life-course transitions", Leira, A. and Saraceno, C. (Ed.) Childhood: Changing Contexts (Comparative Social Research, Vol. 25), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 325-353.



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