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John J. Wilson, Acting Administrator January 2001

Family Abductors: Descriptive Profiles and Preventive Interventions

Janet R. Johnston and Linda K. Girdner



Common Characteristics of Abducting Parents

Profiles of Parents At Risk for Abducting Their Children


For Further Information


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.

From the Administrator

Parental abduction encompasses a broad array of illegal behaviors that involve one parent taking, detaining, concealing, or enticing away his or her child from the parent having custodial access. When the abducting parent intends to permanently alter custodial access by hiding the child or removing the child to another State or country, the effects on the family and the obstacles to the child’s recovery are compounded.

Drawing on research conducted in the San Francisco Bay area, this Bulletin describes the common characteristics of abducting parents and profiles parents at risk for abducting their children. Constructive interventions are offered for each of the six profiles provided.

It should be kept in mind that these profiles neither predict the probability that a parental abduction will occur in a specific situation, e.g., when a particular family situation meets one or more of the characteristics, nor imply that there is no danger of such an abduction when no common characteristics exist. Rather, the profiles provide information that, along with the facts of a given case, may indicate that preventive interventions should be considered.

The information this Bulletin provides can be used to help prevent and reduce the serious problem of parental abduction.

John J. Wilson
Acting Administrator



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, Corte Madera, CA. 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.

All photographs copyright © 1999 PhotoDisc, Inc.

NCJ 182788

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