Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science

"Street Kids": Towards an Understanding of Their Motivational Context

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science

"Street Kids": Towards an Understanding of Their Motivational Context

Article excerpt


The focus of the present research was the daily behaviours and goals of a sample of urban homeless youth, or, as they prefer, "street kids." The challenge of choosing an appropriate control sample was resolved by comparing street kids to two separate samples: University students and young people from a community club in a poor neighbourhood. A standard interview requiring daily recall of behaviour on an hour-by-hour basis, and ratings on 10-point scales to a series of questions focusing on motivation, role models, trust, and psychological and physical well-being, was administered on a one-to-one basis. Results revealed that street kids stand out as having no coherent set of medium- and long-term goals. Moreover, they do not trust, nor look up to authorities, but neither do they have stable friendships involving trust and admiration. However, those few street kids who do have a trusted friend are more intrinsically motivated and tend to feel less irritable and less anxious.


La presente recherche visait a etudier les comportements et les buts quotidiens d'un echantillon de jeunes sans-abri en milieu urbain, ou comme ils preferent se faire appeler « des jeunes de la rue ». La difficulte de choisir un echantillon temoin approprie a ete surmontee en comparant des jeunes de la rue a deux echantillons distincts; des etudiants universitaires et des jeunes d'un club communautaire dans un quartier pauvre. Une entrevue standard a ete menee au cours de laquelle les jeunes devaient, un a un, se rappeler leurs comportements quotidiens, d'heure en heure, et ils etaient notes sur une echelle de dix points, sur une serie de questions portant sur la motivation, les modeles de comportement, la confiance et le bien-etre psychologique et physique. Les resultats revelent que les jeunes de la rue ne semblent pas avoir un ensemble coherent de buts a moyen et a long terme. De plus, ils n'ont pas confiance envers les autorites et ne les respectent pas, non plus qu'ils ne jouissent d'amities stables reposant sur la confiance et l'admiration. Cependant, le petit nombre de jeunes qui ont un ami de confiance sont davantage motives de facon intrinseque et ont tendance a se sentir moins irritables et moins anxieux.

We call them, and indeed with some pride they label themselves as, "street kids." They can be found roaming the core of any metropolis, and their ragged appearance almost demands attention, but for the most part they pose no threat whatsoever. That is to say they present no physical threat, but they do threaten society in that they seem to defy society's understanding of how the world works. Members of mainstream society cannot imagine that any young person would choose to live on the streets, even for the sake of independence and adventure. On the other hand, mainstreamers have no ready solution, especially given their perception that these young people seem to eschew most social support agencies.

Research to date has little to offer in terms of understanding the lifestyle of street kids. The research preoccupation has been with descriptive issues, largely because these are especially challenging in the case of street kids. In order to underscore the magnitude of the issue, efforts are made to estimate the number of street kids in a particular urban setting. Projections are usually made based on the numbers who frequent shelters or other social agencies. These estimates are problematic, however, because many street kids deliberately avoid shelters and social agencies, and they tend to be highly mobile both within and between urban centres, and indeed across the border between the United States and Canada. As with all societal categories, there has been reluctance among those who work closely with street kids to view them as a homogeneous group. Thus, for example, distinctions have been drawn between young people who seek the streets as some form of adventure and those who are runaways or throwaways, and between those who suffer family neglect and abuse (Kufeldt & Nimmo, 1987; Ringwalt, Greene, & Robertson, 1998; Zide & Cherry, 1992). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.