40 Uncommon Parental Child Abduction Statistics


Most children who are kidnapped today aren’t kidnapped by strangers. They are taken by their parents. This is done for a wide variety of reasons, but usually occurs when a custodial order is not viewed as being “fair” by one of the parents. When this parent is allowed their court-appointed time with their child, they choose to leave the area and not return their child to their custodial parent. Leaving the area doesn’t necessarily mean they leave the state. It might just mean that they don’t return to their home or return the child to their home.

Statistics About Parental Child Abduction

1. An estimated 203,900 children were victims of a family abduction.
2. The number of children who are reported missing every year in the United States: 800,000.
3. About 2,000 children in the US are reported missing daily.
4. 43% of the children who were the victims of a parental child abduction were not considered missing by their primary caretaker.
5. Only about 1 in every 4 parental child abduction cases are reported to the authorities to receive assistance in locating the children.
6. The percentage of children who are abducted that are below the age of 6: 44%.
7. Biological fathers are responsible for 53% of the parental child abduction cases that occur.
8. 46% of the children who are abducted by their parents are returned to the custodial caretaker in less than 1 week.
9. The percentage of parental child abductions where the child is missing for a minimum of 1 month: 21%.
10. Only 6% of children who are abducted by a parent are not returned at some point in time.
11. Boys and girls were equally likely to experience family abductions.
12. The racial/ethnic distribution of family abducted children corresponds to the distribution of children in the general population.
13. 17% of the children abducted by the non-custodial parent were living with one parent and that parent’s partner.
14. The percentage of children who are abducted by a parent from a relative or foster parent: 15%.
15. 42% of the children who are the victims of a parental child abduction are living in single parent households.
16. 35% of the children who are the victims of this crime were abducted by multiple offenders, like a biological father and the father’s new girlfriend.
17. The percentage of cases where a parental abduction is initiated by the biological mother: 25%.
18. Grandparents are responsible for the family abductions of children 14% of the time.
19. Two-thirds of the total child abductions that occur within a family are kidnapped by a male family figure.
20. 45% of the family abducted children were abducted by perpetrators in their 30s.
21. 36% of the parental child abductions that happen occur within their own home or yard, which is about equal to the abductions that occur in someone else’s home or yard [37%].
22. Removal from a daycare or school is responsible for just 7% of the total parental child abductions that occur.
23. The percentage of abductions that occur by a parent who just had a change in their parenting or visitation rights: 65%.
24. 35% of the parental child abductions that occur happen in the summer season.
25. 23% of the parental child abduction cases on record last less than 24 hours.
26. About 8 out of 10 parents who choose to abduct their child do so with the intent to affect custodial privileges permanently.
27. 3 out of 4 parents who choose to abduct their children do so in order to limit parent/child contact with the custodial parent.
28. Aggrieved caretakers contacted the police regarding 60% of the family abducted children.
29. 8% of custodial parents do not contact the police regarding a parental child abduction because of an unsatisfactory encounter with a police response in the past.
30. The percentage of parents who are advised not to contact the police when their child is abducted by the other parent or a relative: 3%.
31. Family abducted children account for only 7% of all children reported missing.
32. The incident rates of parental child abductions has remained relatively steady across all the periods of time that has been studied.
33. International parental child abduction rates have dropped by 12.23% over the last 4 years.
34. The total number of cases that have been reduced in the study period for international parental child abductions: 140.
35. Domestic parental child abduction figures are estimated to grow by 20% annually in the coming years.
36. 38.06%: the reported decline in the number of reported individual outbound cases originating from the United States.
37. The 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention process is taking longer than in previous years.
38. California leads the United States with an estimated 1,923 cases of family abductions every year.
39. Only 1 out of every 10,000 missing child reports is resolved because of the death of the child.
40. The odds that a parental child abduction will result in the murder of the child: 1 in 347,000.

Difficulties with Parental Child Abduction

Sometimes it isn’t the custodial order that is a problem. There are parents who will abduct their children because visitation orders have been rescinded by the court. The #1 reason why visitation rights are canceled is because of child support. In other words, a parent who refuses to care for their child in monetary fashion will abduct their child so they must care for their child in a monetary fashion. Needless to say, many parents who decide to commit this crime may not be in their 100% right mind.

That is no excuse for the behavior. It simply means that a parent is so emotionally out of control that they see no other option but to abduct their child. They might even feel like they are protecting their child by keeping them away from the custodial parent. There is usually a high level of anger present already because of a divorce of cohabiting break-up, so mental reasoning is already naturally reduced with the presence of the angry emotions. Add in the stresses that are being faced and parents can wind up snapping.

To get a clear picture of this problem, it is important to understand the reasons behind why children go missing. Some kids choose to become runaways because they’ve just had enough. Other abductions are caused by strangers. Sometimes parental child abductions occur when the parent doesn’t believe they are involved in an abduction. Any time a family member conceals the whereabouts of a child and deprives another person with visitation rights of their visits, an abduction occurs. As the statistics show, this happens more often than you might think – and much of this data comes from 1999, the last year comprehensive statistics were made available.

Circumstances That Lead to Behavior

Just because a majority of family abductions end up resolving themselves over time does not mean that anyone can assume that there are benign circumstances involved that can simply be ignored. An intervention by local authorities should always be included to help resolve a situation, but this doesn’t happen in 4 out of 10 parental child abductions.

Younger children are typically at the greatest risk for an abduction because they are the most willing to go along with the non-custodial parent. Children below the age of 8 tend to take people at their word, so a parent saying that it is necessary to stay away from the other parent will believe those words, even if it creates internal conflicts. Parental child abductions are one of the few crimes that younger children have a greater risk of suffering than older children. By promoting safety issues during a divorce proceeding or counseling sessions, some of these short-term cases may be able to be effectively resolved over time.

There is some good news: the parental abductions that tend to make the news usually have tragic results. The use of force or threats to harm a child or relatively rare, even though the goal of an abduction is often to change custody agreements or limit contact opportunities with the other parent. Even the term “abduction” isn’t entirely accurate because the parents of this crime are typically in the lawful custody of their child when the incident begins.

One of the unique findings that are in these statistics is that the parental figure who is the least likely to abduct a child is a stepmother. Although biological fathers are the most likely to abduct their children, this usually happens before the biological father has found another relationship. Once the biological father gets involved with another spouse or significant other, the chances of a parental child abduction will dramatically drop.

6% of the children who go missing have not yet been returned. These children cannot be ignored and this is why it is so important to report any abduction or custodial violation that occurs. By doing so, hopefully more children can be found safe and returned home.