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Methodology

The family abduction estimates are based on the NISMART–2 National Household Surveys of Adult Caretakers and Youth. The surveys were conducted during 1999, using computer-assisted telephone interviewing methodology to collect information from a national probability sample of households. A total of 16,111 interviews were completed with an adult primary caretaker, resulting in an 80-percent cooperation rate among eligible households with children, and a 61-percent response rate. The total number of children identified by adult caretakers in the Household Survey sample was 31,787. Each primary caretaker who completed an interview was asked for permission to interview one randomly selected youth in the household between the ages of 10 and 18. Permission was obtained for 60 percent of the selected youth, yielding 5,015 youth interviews and a 95-percent response rate among the youth for whom permission to interview was granted. Both youth and adult interview data were weighted to reflect the Census-based population of children.

The Household Surveys were designed to screen for potentially countable NISMART–2 episodes, to collect demographic information about the household and its members, to conduct indepth followup interviews specific to each type of episode being studied, and to collect information about any actual or attempted sexual assaults that may have occurred during an episode. The types of episodes studied were family abductions, nonfamily abductions, runaway/thrownaway episodes, and missing child episodes that involved a child being lost or injured or missing due to a benign explanation (e.g., a miscommunication between parent and child).

Respondents were screened with a set of 17 questions to determine their eligibility for an indepth followup interview pertaining to each type of missing child episode. Table 1 presents the five adult screening questions that led to a family abduction followup interview; the youth screening questions were essentially identical.

The family abduction estimates reported in this Bulletin are unified estimates that combine the countable family abductions described by adult caretakers and youth in the Household Surveys.1 Any individual child is counted only once, even if an abduction was reported for the same child in both the adult and youth interviews. For details about the unification, weighting procedures, and variance estimation, see OJJDP’s forthcoming NISMART–2 Household Survey Methodology Technical Report.

Table 1: Household Survey Family Abduction Screening Questions

  • Was there any time when anyone tried to take [this child/any of these children] away from you against your wishes?

    In the past 12 months, did any family member outside your household, such as a spouse, an ex-spouse, an ex-partner, brother, sister, parent, in-law, or any other person you consider a family member or someone acting for them, do any of the following things:

  • Did any family member or someone acting for them take or try to take [this child/any of these children] in violation of a custody order, an agreement, or other child living arrangement?

  • Did any family member outside of your household keep or try to keep [this child/any of these children] from you when you were supposed to have [him/her/them] even if for just a day or weekend?

  • Did any family member conceal [this child/any of these children] or try to prevent you from having contact with [him/her/them]?

  • Has anyone ever kidnapped or tried to kidnap [this child/any of these children]?

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Children Abducted by Family Members:
National Estimates and Characteristics
NISMART Bulletin
October 2002