Missing Children

A Psychological Approach to Understanding the Causes and Consequences of Stranger and Non-Stranger Abduction of Children

By James N. Tedisco & Michele A. Paludi

Subjects: Criminology
Series: SUNY series, The Psychology of Women
Paperback : 9780791428801, 161 pages, March 1996
Hardcover : 9780791428795, 161 pages, March 1996

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Table of contents

Part One. Introduction to the Psychology of Child Abductions
1. Perceptions and Realities

Introduction: We See What We Expect to See

Myth: An Abductor Is a Psychotic Human Being, Easily Identifiable by Children and Adults

Myth: There Are No Long-Term Aftereffects of Abductions for Those Who Are Found

Myth: It Is Only Young, Helpless Children Who Are the Prey of Abductors

Myth: Runaway Children and Adolescents Are Not Targeted for Abductions

Myth: Parental Abduction Is Not a Serious Matter and Is Not a Form of Child Abuse

Myth: Abductions Do Not Happen Here to the People I Know—They Happen Somewhere Else



Part Two. "Missing" Children and Adolescents
2. Runaways


Adolescence: Transition to Adulthood

The Process of Running Away

Terrified Runners: Victims of Incest

Realities of Street Life for Runaway Adolescents



3. Stranger Abductions


Who Are Stranger Abductors?

Common Lures Used by Stranger Abductors

Vulnerable Children

Strangers' Explanations for their Abductions

Psychological Factors Leading to Abductions

Impact of Abductions on Children and Their Communities



4. Noncustodial Parental Abductions


Two "Worlds:" Her Marriage/His Marriage

Two "Worlds:" Her Divorce/His Divorce

Impact of Divorce on Children

Child Support and Custody Issues: Avoiding a Real-Life Tug of War

Noncustodial Parental Abduction: A Real-Life Tug of War



Part Three. Responsibility of Parents, Schools, and Legislators in Dealing with Missing Children
5. The Role and Responsibilities of Parents


From Research and Theory to Practical Advice

How Parents Must Teach Children about Abductions and Victimization

Examples of Behavioral Rehearsal with Children

What Parents Must Do to Teach Themselves about Missing Children and Abductions

Parents' Rights

Therapeutic Support for Parents and Other Family Members



6. The Role and Responsibilities of Schools


Goals of Curriculum Projects

Some Suggestions for Effectively Accomplishing Training Goals

Educational Qualifications of Trainers

Post-Training Factors to Consider

Psychological Issues to Consider when Conducting Training Programs

Sample Curricula

Additional Responsibilities of Schools



7. The Role and Responsibilities of Legislators in Protecting and Assisting Children


Missing Children: Federal Legislation

Missing Children: State Legislation

State Clearinghouses

Legislation Dealing with Prevention of Child Abductions and Missing Children

A Call to Action



Appendix A: Recommendations for Future Research on Missing Children and Child Abductions
Appendix B: Missing Children and Child Abductions: Resources for Advocacy
Appendix C: Missing Children and Child Abductions: Resources for Education
Appendix D: Missing Children and Child Abductions: Resources for Therapeutic Interventions
Appendix E: What to Do if Your Child Is Missing
Appendix F: Sample Child Identification Sheet
Appendix G: Recommendations for Further Reading
Appendix H: Recommendations for Parents for Reducing the Risk of Physical and Sexual Abuse of Children in Day-Care Centers
About the Authors

Focuses on variables that assist in confronting and preventing child abductions, including teacher training, public education and awareness, psychotherapeutic techniques for families and friends of abducted children as well as the children themselves.


Child abduction is the most widespread form of child victimization studied. In 1992 alone, a total of 27,553 cases of missing children were reported in New York State through the Missing Children Register. The majority of missing children cases involved suspected runaways. Abduction cases accounted for one percent of the total report; those committed by family members comprised the most frequent form of abduction (as opposed to abduction by strangers). In addition, 88 percent of the children reported missing were age 13 or older, 60 percent were girls, and 58 percent were white.

Child abduction is a serious socio-economic problem. Until now there has been no text that addresses the incidence, psychological dimensions, and explanatory models of child abductions. This book fills a need by focusing on variables that assist in confronting and preventing child abductions, including teacher training, public education and awareness, psychotherapeutic techniques for families and friends of abducted children as well as the children themselves.

James N. Tedisco has been a member of the New York State Assembly since 1982. In his first year in the Assembly, Tedisco was appointed Ranking Republican member on the Committee on Children and Families. He also served on the Assembly Committees on Aging and Education, and Child Abuse. In 1983, as a result of his work on behalf of missing children, Tedisco was appointed Chairperson of the Assembly Republican Task Force on Missing Children. Tedisco also worked in the field of education from 1973 to 1982, first as a guidance counselor, then as a special education teacher. His expertise as a psychologist, educator, and legislator is integrated in this book. Michele A. Paludi is a developmental psychologist specializing in the psychology of women and victimization. She is Principal of Michele Paludi and Associates, Consultants in Sexual Harassment and offers education and training in issues related to sexual harassment at elementary and secondary schools, colleges and organizations. Paludi has collaborated with Assemblymember Tedisco as his Legislative Advisor on Women's Issues. She is the author of Ivory Power: Sexual Harassment on Campus, and Exploring/Teaching the Psychology of Women: A Manual of Resources, and Sexual Harassment on College Campuses: Abusing the Ivory Power, all published by SUNY Press.


"Even though parents believe they are capable of keeping their children safe, few are aware of the plethora of ways child abductors can achieve their goals. The public needs to be aware that most child abductions occur at the hands of parents or other family members. The array of resources and tips contained in this volume are invaluable. The topic is significant for every parent, teacher, daycare worker, all police personnel, all child protective services workers, and all therapists. " -- Paula K. Lundberg-Love, University of Texas-Tyler