Motives Behind Family Abductions
While many abducting parents claim that they were driven by love and concern for the child, studies have found the following as the primary motives behind family abductions:
- To force a reconciliation or to continue interaction with the left behind parent;
- To blame, spite, or punish the other parent;
- Out of fear of losing custody or visitation rights;
- In rare cases, to protect the child from a parent who is perceived to molest, abuse, or neglect the child.
Source: Chiancone, Janet. Parental Abduction: A review ofthe Literature, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Numerous studies have documented the emotional scars caused in children by family abductions. In a 1983 study, 89 percent of sampled children who suffered or were threatened with family abduction showed symptoms of grief and rage toward the left-behind parent, as well as “mental indoctrination” perpetrated by the abductor.
Another study revealed that the majority of recovered children experienced symptoms of emotional distress, often in the form of anxiety, eating problems, and nightmares, as a result of being abducted.
Studies have also found that the degree of trauma increases with the duration of the child’s kidnapping. In light of such findings, the need to minimize delay and expedite investigations becomes painfully clear. For every minute, hour, and day that a child is missing while law enforcement and other agencies figure out what to do, the psychological impact takes a larger toll on the child.
Furthermore, more than half of abducting parents have a history of violent behavior, a criminal record or a substance abuse problem. Physical and sexual abuse can and have occurred during family abductions.