Street children in South Africa: findings from interviews on the background of street children in Pretoria, South Africa

Adolescence. 1996 Summer;31(122):423-31.


In the present study findings from interviews on the background of street children in Pretoria, South Africa are presented, discussed, and compared with research done in the past on South African street children. Findings from the investigation indicate that the average age of South African street children is approximately 13 years, predominantly of male African origin. Most have been on the streets for three years or longer, and they cited family violence, parental alcoholism, abuse, and poverty as the main motivating factors for leaving home. Most of these findings are common among street children all over the world.

PIP: This article presents the findings from in-depth interviews with street children in Pretoria, South Africa, during September, 1993. The average age of children was 13-14 years. This age group was younger than that found in developed countries. All of the children in this study were Black boys. The author refers to Ross's estimates of nearly 9000 Black street children and virtually no White street children in South Africa. There are 160 state-registered, subsidized residences for 10,000 White children; urban areas have no state and only 12 private residences serving 1000 Black children. The author also refers to Gebers' (1990) estimates that 81.1% of street children were male. It is argued that there are fewer girl street children because of their usefulness in household tasks and child care. All of the street children interviewed had lived on the streets since 1991. Richter estimates that about 33% of street children return home shortly, and another 33% stay on the streets for 6-18 months. Most street children in developed countries return home within a month. Findings from this study correspond to Gebers' findings that a longer time on the streets was associated with a greater distance from health or institutional care. Children in this study reporting leaving home due to family violence, parents' alcoholism, abuse, poverty, and personal reasons. Fall indicates that the pull factors for running away from home are the attractiveness of living in cities, the hope of improving their living conditions, and independence. Push factors include population pressure, urbanization, cost of living, need for increased income, child abandonment and neglect, family size, and collapse of traditional families. Swart blames family disintegration on the current political system that relies on migrant labor, racial segregation, and racial violence in Black areas. The conditions for children living in the streets appear to be universal.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Black People
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child
  • Child, Abandoned / statistics & numerical data
  • Developing Countries / economics
  • Developing Countries / statistics & numerical data
  • Domestic Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Family
  • Homeless Youth* / psychology
  • Homeless Youth* / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data
  • Runaway Behavior
  • Social Conditions / economics
  • Social Conditions / statistics & numerical data
  • South Africa / ethnology