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  March 2001

Early Identification of Risk Factors for Parental Abduction

Janet R. Johnston, Inger Sagatun-Edwards, Martha-Elin Blomquist, and Linda K. Girdner


Research Design

Findings of the First Three Studies

Findings of the Intervention Study

Effectiveness of the Legal System’s Response to Family Abduction

What Children At Risk for Abduction Deserve From Their Communities


Supplemental Reading

This Bulletin was prepared under grant number 92–MC–CX–0007 from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice.

Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of OJJDP or the U.S. Department of Justice, nor have they been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association (ABA). The views, accordingly, should not be construed as representing the official position or policies of the ABA.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office for Victims of Crime.

A Message From OJJDP

While State custody laws vary, the laws of every State establish that abducting one’s own child is a crime.

OJJDP has funded four research projects on preventing family abductions: a documentary study, a criminal sanctions study, an interview study, and an intervention study. The design and findings of these research projects are described in this Bulletin.

The findings provide information regarding the risk factors associated with parental kidnaping and strategies that can be used to intervene with families at greatest risk. They address such critical factors as the characteristics of parents who abduct their own children, the role family violence plays in increasing the likelihood of parental abduction, ways of identifying children at risk of being abducted by a parent or other family member, and steps that can be taken to protect children from family abduction.

Recommendations to increase parental access to legal resources, develop responses to reported family violence, provide services to families involved in custody disputes, protect children’s interests, and create unified family courts are also included.

OJJDP believes that the information this Bulletin provides will enhance efforts to identify risk factors for parental abduction and help protect children from harm.



Janet R. Johnston, Ph.D., is Associate Professor in the Administration of Justice Department, San Jose State University, and Executive Director of the Judith Wallerstein Center for the Family in Transition. Inger Sagatun-Edwards, Ph.D., is Professor in and Chair of the Administration of Justice Department, San Jose State University. Martha-Elin Blomquist, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Florida State University, Panama City. Linda K. Girdner, Ph.D., was Director of Research at the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law during the time of the grant project.

Photograph in this bulletin copyright © 2001 PhotoDisc, Inc.

NCJ 185026

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