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Street Children

Street children are defined as often unsupervised children who work, play, and/or live in street environments. As of 1998, there were about 1.5 million children in the United States categorized as out-of-school, homeless, runaway, throwaway, and system youths (i.e., youths in foster care, institutions, shelters, and group homes). More than 100 million street children are found in poor countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Street children are broadly subgrouped into children on the street (working) and of the street (living and working). Factors that contribute to homelessness and street children include poverty; physical, emotional, and sexual abuse; abandonment and family indifference; desire for a better life; and the lure of the street. Street children exhibit many physical health problems (such as respiratory and skin disorders, malnutrition, and anemia), emotional health problems (such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, and suicidal tendencies), and health-compromising behaviors (such as substance abuse, prostitution, violence, and delinquency). Intervention efforts have included reuniting families, providing shelter, and improving access to counseling, health care, education, and vocational training.


Raffaelli, M., and R. W. Larson. Homeless and Working Youth around the World: Exploring Developmental Issues. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999.

Evelyn K. Kumoji

Debra Mekos

Additional topics

Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 7