Date of Award

Spring 1991

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Murray A Straus


It is only in the last two decades that parental abduction has become recognized as a social problem of significant magnitude. In the current study, data from the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway Children (Finkelhor, et al. 1990) are used to explore the characteristics of victims, perpetrators and episodes of parental abduction. Next, a state-level analysis examines the relationship between various social, legal, familial and cultural variables and rates of parental abduction. Data from the National Center on Missing and Exploited Children provided the dependent variable for the state-level analyses. State rates of parental abduction appear to be related to divorce rates, the status of children in legal and social arenas, and the cultural approval of male aggression. The legal classification of parental abduction as a misdemeanor or felony did not have a strong relationship with incidence rates.

Finally, a factor analysis was done involving state rates of parental abduction and crime rates using the F.B.I.'s index crimes (homicide, robbery, burglary, rape, motor vehicle theft, aggravated assault). This explored the appropriate classification of parental abduction as a crime. Parental abduction shared a factor with rape and larceny theft, suggesting similarities exist between these offenses. Findings are discussed and policy implications are offered.