U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Risk Factors for Family Abduction: Demographic and Family Interaction Characteristics

NCJ Number
Journal of Family Violence Volume: 12 Issue: 3 Dated: September 1997 Pages: 333-348
P S Plass; D Finkelhor; G T Hotaling
Date Published
16 pages
This study addresses three methodological difficulties in research on family abduction, using data drawn from a national sample of families and including both abducted and nonabducted children.
Previous research on family abduction has been plagued by three problems in efforts to establish risk factors for the experience of these events: failure to use appropriate comparison groups; focus on only the most severe cases of abduction, without consideration of the full spectrum of these events; and use of data drawn only from some "reported" source (i.e., police, court, or missing children agency reports). In the current analyses, the authors identified risk factors for the experience of family abduction by using two definitions: a more general "Broad Scope" definition (designed to correspond to a more "legalistic" conception of family abductions), and a more stringent "Policy Focal" definition (designed to more closely resemble stereotypical abduction events). The analyses portray the kinds of children and families that are at risk for abduction and offer some direction for subsequent research. The findings show that families with young white children (without siblings) and that have experienced some sort of violence between the adults in the household are at higher risk than are divorced families without these characteristics. The risk for the most serious abductions (using the Policy Focal definition) are greater immediately following or surrounding a divorce/separation. These results correspond with the implications of other less random studies that focused solely on serious cases of abduction (i.e., those reported to missing children's or law enforcement agencies) and which used no control groups. 2 tables and 15 references