Rena Zito presents research on sexual minority runaways at criminology conference

Rena Zito, an assistant professor of sociology, presented at the American Society of Criminology's annual conference in Washington, D.C., in November 2015.   

The presentation, titled “Risk Factors for Off-Time Home Leaving among Sexual Minority and Heterosexual Youth,” was part of the “Life Events and Responses to Adolescent and Youth Adult Offending” session, which Zito chaired.

Drawing on social capital theory and adopting a lifecourse perspective, the research used nationally representative panel data on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and heterosexual adolescents to examine (1) the sexual minority gap in running away and (2) whether the sexual minority gap is a result of differing levels or risk and protective factors and/or differential impacts of risk and protective factors. Results indicate that sexual minority youth, and sexual minority girls in particular, are at a heightened risk of running away, and that this heightened risk is largely the result of deficits in–or differential levels of–family, school, and personal resources.

Moreover, the protective effects of school social support and academic achievement were weaker among sexual minority youth. These findings have important implications for service agencies addressing the needs of sexual minority youth, particuarly those contending with unsupportive school and family environments.