Research with street-involved children and youth (SICY) in Sub-Saharan Africa over the past three decades has established a complex web of both micro and macro-level factors that simultaneously “push” and “pull” children and youth to the street.
There is still little research with adult family and community members in communities from which SICY originate.
Forty men and women from five semi-rural villages in Meru County, Kenya participated in a Rapid Rural Appraisal utilizing a fishbone diagram to explore main and underlying reasons for why children may be or may feel unwelcome in the home and thus migrate to the street.
Responses were analyzed in terms of ecological levels, child or parent perspective, and the push/pull framework.
Overall, community members identified families and households experiencing stress and lacking the necessary resources to successfully adjust and adapt.
Four ecological levels of influence were proposed as main reasons, with parent and caregiver factors mentioned most often, followed by household factors, children’s intrapersonal factors, and interpersonal (family) factors.
Community and environmental level factors were also proposed as underlying factors.
Analysis by gender revealed that both men and women emphasized push factors over pull factors, though men proposed more pull factors (from peers and street life) than women did.
Men placed more responsibility on the children than women did, citing children’s negative behaviors, dissatisfaction with home, and a desire for independence and work/income.
Women, in contrast, emphasized children’s feelings of being unloved and the experience of harsh punishment or abuse from caregivers.
Findings suggest that interventions to reduce street involvement should support economically, medically, and psychologically vulnerable families and households through comprehensive family strengthening programs that build financial capacity, improve parenting and communication skills, and promote education over child work and labor.