Street children in Colombo: What brings them to and sustains them on the streets?

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Introduction: Street children are a vulnerable group and a social problem. Weaning them off the streets requires an understanding of push/pull factors related to street life. Objectives: To describe factors associated with initiation and continuation of street life among street children in Colombo city. Methods: A descriptive cross sectional study of mixed methods was conducted in Colombo Fort, Pettah, Slave Island and Maradana areas. Semistructured interviews (SSIs) were conducted with key informants using a semi-structured questionnaire (SSQ). Focus group discussions were conducted using a moderator's question guide with street children recruited through referral sampling. SSIs were also conducted with 25 street children, using a SSQ. All children identified through referral sampling were subsequently profiled. Data triangulation was used to validate data. Results: Two hundred and eighty three children, aged 8-18 years, were recruited, 210 (74%) being boys. Representation of minority ethnic groups was comparatively higher. Over 40% of children had been introduced to street life by their own family. Other common mediators included close family relatives, non-relative known contacts and peers. Common reported reasons for initiation of street life were: death / illness / imprisonment of one or both parent/s, extreme poverty, alcohol/substance abuse by fathers and being born in streets. One third of children lived in single-parent families and 42% with non-parent adults but 18% lacked an adult guardian. They had poor educational achievements and no occupational skills.Conclusions: Disadvantaged socio-economic conditions, poor family functioning and family influence have brought children to the streets.




Senaratna, B. C. V., & Wijewardana, B. V. N. (2013). Street children in Colombo: What brings them to and sustains them on the streets? Sri Lanka Journalof Child Health, 42(2), 70–75.

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