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


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


B C V Senaratna ,

University of Sri Jayewardenepura, LK
About B C V
Senior Lecturer in Community Medicine, University of Sri Jayewardenepura
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BVN Wijewardana

University of Sri Jayewardenepura,, LK
About BVN

Senior Lecturer in Criminology, University of Sri Jayewardenepura,

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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. Semi-structured 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.

(Key words: street children; initiation; continuation; rehabilitation; Sri Lanka)

Sri Lanka Journal of Child Health, 2013; 42: 70-75

How to Cite: Senaratna, B.C.V. and Wijewardana, B., 2013. Street children in Colombo: What brings them to and sustains them on the streets?. Sri Lanka Journal of Child Health, 42(2), pp.70–75. DOI:
Published on 31 May 2013.
Peer Reviewed


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