The Household Survey

The foundation for most NISMART 2 estimates, like that for most NISMART 1 estimates, is a large household survey conducted by telephone. NISMART 2 includes a survey of youth residential facilities, a survey of police records, and a reanalysis of data from a more current Study of the National Incidence and Prevalence of Child Abuse and Neglect. The study of family networks, the study of returned runaways, and the reanalysis of FBI data on child homicides are not included in NISMART 2. Each of the research strategies included in NISMART 2 is discussed below.

Because not all missing child episodes are reported to the police or other agencies, researchers cannot rely solely on police records for data. Instead, they must gather information about cases of missing children directly from families. A household survey, consisting of two main components, is being used to gather data for this survey.

Telephone Survey of Parents or Guardians

The first part of the NISMART 2 Household Survey is a random telephone survey of a nationally representative sample that is designed to yield interviews with parents or guardians in 16,000 households concerning 30,000 children. The household survey uses a large sample to provide suitably precise estimates of rare events such as nonfamily abductions. The NISMART 1 sample for the household survey yielded interviews in 10,367 households concerning 20,138 children. For NISMART 2, the researchers are increasing the sample size.

During the telephone interviews, respondents are asked if children have been missing from the household. Respondents who answer affirmatively are asked about the circumstances of the episode, the characteristics of the child and other individuals involved, and the recovery of the child—whether and how that occurred.

Telephone Survey of Youth

The second part of the NISMART 2 Household Survey is a series of telephone interviews with randomly selected youth ages 10 to 18 who live in the sample households. This important new data collection effort allows researchers to gather additional information directly from youth, who are able to provide detailed information about what happened during the episodes. The researchers then compare the information gathered from youth and their parents to see which kinds of events and which details are overlooked or underreported by either group. The researchers anticipate that almost half of the households providing an interview with a parent or guardian will also provide an interview with a youth.


Second Comprehensive Study of Missing Children
Juvenile Justice Bulletin    ·    April 2000