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Children Abducted by Family Members: National Estimates and Characteristics

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2002
12 pages
Publication Series
This bulletin presents results from the initial analysis of family abduction data collected by the Second National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children (NISMART-2), National Household Surveys of Adult Caretakers and Youth.
These surveys were conducted during 1999 and reflect a 12-month period. Because the majority of cases were concentrated in 1999, the annual period referred to in the bulletin was 1999. For the purposes of NISMART-2, family abduction was defined as "the taking or keeping of a child by a family member in violation of a custody order, a decree, or other legitimate custodial rights, where the taking or keeping involved some element of concealment, flight, or intent to deprive a lawful custodian indefinitely of custodial privileges." An estimated 203,900 children were victims of a family abduction in 1999. Among these, 117,200 were missing from their caretakers; and of these, an estimated 56,500 were reported to authorities for assistance in locating the children. Forty-tree percent of the children who were victims of family abduction were not considered missing by their caretakers, because the caretakers knew the children's whereabouts or were not alarmed by the circumstances. Forty-four percent of family abducted children were younger than age 6. Fifty-three percent of family abducted children were abducted by their biological father, and 25 percent were abducted by their biological mother. Forty-six percent of family abducted children were gone less than 1 week, and 21 percent were gone 1 month or more. Only 6 percent of children abducted by a family member had not yet returned at the time of the survey interview. Knowledge about the number of children who experience family abductions should spur efforts to prevent the occurrence of family abductions and help children and their aggrieved caretakers recover from the effect of these abductions when they occur. 8 tables and 3 references

Date Published: October 1, 2002