Missing Children Episodes
Declined In The 1990s, UNH Professor's Study Finds
Contact: Erika Mantz
UNH Media Relations
Jan. 13, 2005
Editors: David Finkelhor is available for interviews Jan. 13
at (207) 883-4979. Friday, Jan. 14, he is available on the Durham
campus at (603) 862-2761.
DURHAM, N.H. – The decade of the 1990s saw a decline in the
number of children who ran away, got lost or were abducted by family
members, according to a new study released today by the U.S. Department
of Justice. Moreover, no type of missing child episodes experienced
The findings emerged from a report based on the second National
Incidence Study of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway children
(NISMART-2), on which University of New Hampshire Professor David
Finkelhor was one of the lead researchers.
According to Finkelhor, “This is one more piece of evidence
that the 1990s were kind to young people.” Among other improvements,
he pointed out that by the end of the decade child sexual abuse
had declined, poverty among children decreased, teen suicide and
teen pregnancy declined, and children were perpetrators and victims
of fewer crimes. Some of these improvements have continued during
the last few years as well.
Finkelhor said he and other researchers are not certain about all
the reasons for the improvements. The economy improved during the
1990s, but divorce and family disruption continued to affect a large
number of young people.
The report speculates that improved communication technology and
the availability of cell phones may have made it easier to locate
children and may have improved communication between parents and
children, leading perhaps to fewer lost child and runaway episodes.
Family abductions may have declined due to court reforms, mediation
services, more equitable child custody arrangements and greater
public awareness about the dangers and negative effects of unilateral
Finkelhor added that perhaps the decline in sexual abuse is connected
to less running away and family abduction, and he also pointed to
the increased use of psychiatric medication, which may have reduced
depression, anxiety and family conflict, the main source of these
The study, “National Estimates of Missing Children: Selected
Trends 1988-1999,” authored by Heather Hammer, Finkelhor,
Andrea Sedlak and Lorraine Porcellini, based its findings on surveys
with national samples of several thousand parents.