High profile cases of child abduction have dominated media and the minds of the American people. The amount of coverage and recognition that these high profile cases carry have led to a general consensus that child abductions by strangers are common and present a risk to all unsupervised or hapless children.
However, trends in child abductions show that this is not the case. In the United States, most cases of child abduction are not by strangers. Contrary to popular belief, most cases of child abduction are by family members of the child.
Statistics for child abduction are often misleading. For example, while the number of serious child abduction cases is remaining relatively low, the numbers of such cases are in fact declining.
Today, most child abductions are by family members, mostly parents. The vast majority of these abductions were not serious, with most children being recovered quickly. In the past, parents preached safety when talking to strangers. Today, this stranger safety education has proven less useful, as the large majority of children are taken by people they know.
Abductions by family members are more than three times more common than stranger abductions, according to the Department of Justice. The increase in the number of divorces has led to a large increase in parental child abductions. In many of these cases, the child is brought into another country. International child abduction has grown to become more of a problem as a result of increased ease of international travel.
There is no evidence of a growth in stranger child abductions nor is there evidence for a growth in child abductions in general. Only parental and family child abductions has seen an empirical growth.
The typical impression of child abduction, especially in the United States, is that stereotypical stranger abductions are common. The truth is, however, that child abduction today mostly revolves around people whom the child knows. With the increased ease of travel and the growing number of divorces, child abductions are experiencing a statistical trend towards family abductions and away from stranger child abductions.