Purpose: This study compared sexually-abused runaway girls participating in the Runaway Intervention Program (RIP girls), to girls in the general Minnesota Student Survey (MSS girls) on their family relationships and psychological well-being.
Method: Longitudinal data from 58 RIP girls, who received individualized visits by a pediatric nurse practitioner and access to empowerment groups, and cross-sectional data from 41,737 girls in 9th and 12th grades in the 2004 MSS. RIP girls (mean age, 13.83) completed the MSS questionnaire at entry, 6, and 12 months. MSS girls were grouped by type of sexual abuse: no abuse, intra-familial only, extra-familial only, or both types. Perceived family caring, self-esteem, and emotional distress were multi-item scales with 5 point scores (higher score = more caring, esteem, or distress). Prior to comparing RIP and MSS girls, we analyzed changes in mean scores among RIP girls from entry to 6 and 12 months via paired t-tests. ANOVAs with post-hoc LSD compared the four MSS groups on the same scores. Finally, we compared RIP girls’ entry and later scores to those of the four MSS groups using 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of means.
Results: RIP girls significantly improved from entry to 6 and 12 months (all p < 0.01). Family caring increased (entry:1.82, 6 months: 2.42, 12 months: 2.38). So did self-esteem (entry: 1.51, 6 months: 2.08, 12 months: 2.26). Emotional distress scores decreased (entry: 2.32, 6 months: 1.62, 12 months: 1.44). Non-abused MSS girls reported significantly higher family caring and self-esteem, and lower distress than those with one or both types of abuse. At entry, RIP girls’ mean scores were similar to those of MSS girls with both types of abuse: RIP girls’ mean family caring was 1.82 (CI = 1.65, 1.99) and MSS (both) was 1.87 (CI = 1.81, 1.94); RIP girls’ distress was 2.32 (CI = 2.20, 2.43) and MSS (both) was 2.37 (CI = 2.32, 2.42). At 6 months, RIP girls’ scores were similar to non-abused MSS girls on mean family caring (RIP, 2.42, CI = 2.28, 2.57 vs. MSS 2.78, CI = 2.77, 2.79), at 1 year on self-esteem (RIP 2.26, CI = 2.16, 2.36 vs. MSS 2.19, CI = 2.19, 2.20, and at 6 months on emotional distress (RIP 1.62, CI = 1.51, 1.72 vs. MSS 1.65, CI = 1.64, 1.65).
Conclusions: At entry into RIP, the girls were most like their sexually-abused peers in the general population in levels of perceived family caring, self-esteem, and emotional distress. However, with significant improvements in all 3 areas after 6 months, their scores more closely resembled non-abused girls’ scores. This appears to be a promising intervention for sexually-abused runaway girls.