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Reconsidering the Leading Myths of Stranger Child Abduction

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This paper addresses the two foremost myths of child abduction: (1) that it is generally committed by strangers; and (2) that the phenomenon is a growing problem. These commonly held views are considered in light of the extant empirical knowledge base, including the recently released NISMART-2 study. Research indicates that stranger abduction occurs less frequently than family abduction or acquaintance abduction; stereotypical stranger abductions are rarer still, and stereotypical stranger abductions resulting in homicide are extraordinarily rare. There is no evidence of a stranger-abduction epidemic, and there is no clear evidence for a child abduction epidemic overall. There is, however, strong evidence that parental abduction is widespread. Assessment of the extant knowledge base suggests the need for: (1) national longitudinal studies with consistent typologies and methodologies which could determine the scope and trend of child abduction; (2) increased efforts to verify interview data to avoid overestimation; (3) theoretical construction to predict/explain abduction behaviors; and (4) migration of new elaborated typologies into NIBRS and especially UCR data collection.
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Keywords: NISMART; kidnapping; parent; parental

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-03-01

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