Perpetrators of early physical and sexual abuse among homeless and runaway adolescents

Kimberly A. Tyler, Ana Mari Cauce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine abuse specific variables among homeless and runaway adolescents and to look at perpetrators of childhood abuse. Method: A total of 372 homeless and runaway adolescents were interviewed using a systematic sampling strategy in metropolitan Seattle. Young people were interviewed on the streets and in shelters by outreach workers in youth service agencies. Results: Approximately one-half of these young people reported being physically abused and almost one-third experienced sexual abuse. Females experienced significantly higher rates of sexual abuse compared to males, and sexual minority youth experienced significantly higher rates of physical and sexual abuse compared to heterosexual youth. Average duration of physical and sexual abuse was 5 and 2 years, respectively. Both types of abuse were rated as extremely violent by more than half of those who were abused. The average number of different perpetrators of physical and sexual abuse was four and three, respectively. Biological parents were the majority of perpetrators for physical abuse whereas nonfamily members most often perpetrated sexual abuse. Average age of perpetrators was late 20s to early 30s and the majority of perpetrators were male for both types of abuse. Conclusions: The pattern of exploitation and victimization within the family may have serious and cumulative developmental consequences for these youth as they enter the street environment. Early intervention programs are needed to break the cycle of exploitation and abuse that adolescents experience within the family. Without intervention, many of these youth may be at risk of future exploitation and re-victimization out on the street.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1261-1274
Number of pages14
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2002


  • Childhood abuse
  • Homeless adolescents
  • Perpetrators

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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