Table 2 shows that the total number of children who were abducted by a family member in 1999 is estimated to be 203,900. Of these, the number counted as caretaker missing (i.e., the caretaker did not know where the child was, became alarmed for at least an hour, and looked for the child) is estimated to be 117,200 (about 57 percent of all children who experienced a family abduction), and the number reported missing (i.e., reported to police or a missing childrens agency for purposes of being located) is estimated to be 56,500 (28 percent of all children who experienced a family abduction). The diagram on this page illustrates the proportional relationships between all family abducted children and the subsets of children who were caretaker missing and reported missing. It also shows that the children who were reported missing are a subset of those who were caretaker missing. (Note that this Bulletin presents data on the characteristics of all family abducted children, not just those who were classified as caretaker missing or reported missing.)
Characteristics of Family Abducted Children
Table 3 indicates that, although children of any age can be victims of family abduction, younger children appear to be particularly vulnerable. In 1999, 44 percent of family abducted children were younger than age 6. Older teenagers (ages 1517) accounted for a small proportion of family abduction victims; this finding may reflect the relative independence of teenagers, which makes it more difficult for parents to control where they go and stay. Boys and girls were equally likely to experience family abductions.
The racial/ethnic distribution of family abducted children corresponds to the distribution of children in the general population. This indicates that family abductions do not occur disproportionately in any one racial/ethnic group.
Not surprisingly, family abductions were much more likely to occur in families where children were not living with both parentsthe circumstance that gives rise to motives for family abduction. Forty-two percent of the family abducted children were living with one parent, and another 17 percent were living with one parent and that parents partner. Fifteen percent of children abducted by family members were abducted from relatives or foster parents.
Characteristics of Family Abduction Perpetrators
As shown in table 4, a little more than one-third (35 percent) of family abducted children were abducted by multiple offenders (e.g., a father and his girlfriend). The following discussion of perpetrator characteristics refers to the perpetrator most closely related to the abducted child.
Table 5 shows that just more than half (53 percent) of children abducted by a family member in 1999 were abducted by the biological father. Twenty-five percent were abducted by the biological mother. Fourteen percent were abducted by a grandparent, and there were also some abductions by a sibling, uncle, aunt, and mothers boyfriend.2 Given the likelihood of being abducted by the biological father, it is not surprising that 66 percent of the family abducted children were abducted by a male. The age distribution in table 5 shows that 45 percent of the family abducted children were abducted by perpetrators in their 30s.
Characteristics of Family Abduction Episodes
Location and season. Table 6 shows that children abducted by a family member usually were in their own home or yard (36 percent) or in someone elses home or yard (37 percent) just prior to the abduction. Removal from school or daycare was relatively infrequent (7 percent). Sixty-three percent of children abducted by a family member were with the abductor, under lawful circumstances, immediately prior to the abduction. Some seasonal variation in family abductions is evident. Thirty-five percent of children were abducted in the summer (June through August), probably because children tend to spend time with noncustodial parents in the summer, thus increasing opportunities for abduction.
Duration. Table 6 also shows that the vast majority of children abducted by a family member had been returned at the time of the interview (91 percent). Forty-six percent of all family abducted children were gone less than 1 week, and 23 percent were gone less than 1 day. The proportion gone for 1 month or longer was 21 percent, and 6 percent were gone for 6 months or longer. Only 6 percent had not yet returned at the time of the survey interview; all of these children had, however, been located.3 (Seventy-eight percent of the children who had not returned had been gone 6 months or more; the remaining 22 percent had been gone at least 1 month but less than 6 months. These figures are not shown in the table.)
Indicators of serious episodes. Table 7 shows that the use of threats, physical force, or weapons was relatively uncommon in family abductions. Seventeen percent of family abducted children were moved out of State with intent to make recovery difficult. Forty-four percent were concealed from the aggrieved caretaker. The most common serious elements were attempts to prevent contact (76 percent) and intent to affect custodial privileges permanently (82 percent).
As shown in table 8, aggrieved caretakers contacted the police regarding 60 percent of the family abducted children. However, not all of these contacts were for the purpose of locating the child. Fifty percent of the contacts were to recover the child from a known location; 42 percent were to locate the child.
Caretakers did not contact the police regarding 40 percent of the family abducted children, citing a variety of reasons. In some cases, they resolved the episode on their own (23 percent) or with a lawyer (6 percent). Some believed that police assistance was not necessary because they knew the childs location (10 percent) or knew that the child would not be harmed (6 percent). Some caretakers feared the child would be harmed if they contacted the police (6 percent). Others did not think the police could help (15 percent), were dissatisfied with police response to a previous contact (8 percent), or had been advised by others not to contact the police (3 percent).
A special analysis of NISMART1 and NISMART2 data was conducted to identify historical trends in family abduction.4 The analysis suggests that, between 1988 and 1999, the incidence rate of children who were victims of serious family abductions did not change, but there may have been a decline in the rate for children who were victims of less serious episodes involving various forms of custodial interference. Details of this analysis will be presented in OJJDPs forthcoming Bulletin, Historical Change in the Incidence of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children, 19881999.