Far from the days of seeing kids show up on the milk carton of your morning cereal, missing children in the United States and worldwide is a deeply concerning issue. Child abduction statistics show that the prevalence of this type of crime is more often than you think, but the perpetrators are who you’d least expect.
It’s easy to get swept away in the myths about who and why children go missing. Less sinister than the news would have you believe, most children go missing because a non-custodial parent has picked them up. While stranger danger is real, it’s not as real as we’ve been made to believe. Check out these latest statistics to find out the truth about kids going missing.
8 Child Abduction Statistics (Editor’s Choice)
- Every year, approximately eight million children are reported missing worldwide
- In the US, 2300 children are reported missing per day
- Strangers abduct less than 1% of missing children
- Parents are accountable for over 90% of abductions
- In the US, nearly 400 000 youth were abducted in 2020
- Every two minutes, a child is reported missing in Europe
- In 2019, Turkey had an abduction rate of 14.86 cases per 100,000 people
- In Europe, one-third of missing children were found by the police in 2020
General Missing Children Statistics
There are three different types of child abduction: stranger abduction, abduction for the purpose of raising a child, and parental abduction. Millions of children go missing every year, and due to lack of reporting, that instance is likely much more. In recent years, however, the combination of awareness and technology has ensured that almost all children are returned home safely.
1. Around 8 million children are reported missing each year worldwide.
According to the latest worldwide missing children statistics, the US accounts for 800,000 missing child cases each year. While many high-profile cases come from the United States, the speculation that child abduction is an American problem is evidently false, with millions more being reported across the globe.
2. 2300 children are reported missing daily in the US.
(Child Find of America)
Missing child reports cover many different situations, including abductions. While some are instances of parental or stranger abduction, other instances include running away, being kicked out, misunderstandings, or getting lost.
3. In 2020, almost 400 000 youth were abducted in the US.
Based on the latest child abduction statistics for 2020, there were 178 747 teen male kidnapping cases, while the number of girls was much higher, at 209 375 cases. It seems that kidnapping and age do have an inverse relationship. The higher the age of the person, the lower the likelihood of being abducted. For example, less than 160,000 adults were abducted in 2020.
4. Teenagers are the most common age group for abduction.
According to analyses of missing children cases, teenagers are the most likely to be victimized. While the press may be inclined to cover cases of smaller children under the age of 12, statistics show that teens between 12 and 18 account for 80% of all parental and stranger abductions in the US.
5. More than 99% of missing children return home alive.
While a missing child is always a scene for concern, the vast amount of child abduction cases in recent years have returned home alive. Many point to technological advancement as a leading reason for this positive indication, as well as greater awareness that quick responses make a difference for the lives of abductees.
Stranger abductions are the only outlier in this hopeful outlook. Studies show that of this small group of children every year, 40% of them are killed by the person who took them.
Child Abduction Statistics: Non-Family Kidnapping
Non-family kidnapping is perhaps the most commonly associated type of abduction in this phenomenon. Fear of human trafficking, child abuse, and other crimes is very real in these scenarios, and while they account for a small proportion of all missing child cases, the impact is devastating.
6. Less than 1% of missing children get abducted by strangers.
(Missing Kids, Reuters)
When it comes to all cases of children reported missing, less than 1% are taken by someone they don’t know. The vast 91% of missing cases are runaways, as child kidnapping statistics show, while family abductions make up 5% of missing children. Based on reports from the FBI over the last ten years, fewer than 350 children were abducted annually by strangers, despite the high profile news coverage of many cases.
7. 57% of children abducted by strangers make it back home.
While stranger abductions are more difficult to prevent and intercept, the majority are still returned home alive. Child abduction rates show that since stranger abduction is most often a premeditated act, it involves using techniques to lure the child to come willingly with the perpetrator, only to be victimized later. The nature of this crime makes it much more difficult to catch, especially after more than a few days have passed.
8. One in six runaways are likely victims of child sex trafficking.
Of the 26 500 missing children in 2020, 1 in 6 were likely involved in sex trafficking. Sex trafficking is a pertinent issue in regards to child abduction cases, and the majority of the time, the trafficker is someone close to the child, such as a guardian, parent, neighbor, or friend of the family. One scary statistics says that 20% of abusers have attacked between 10 and 40 minors. Background checking services have become available in recent decades, giving parents extra security about the adults they let into their children’s lives.
9. The first three hours after the abduction is the most crucial for finding a child.
A fast response to missing child cases is the key to bringing kids home safely. According to children kidnapping statistics, in 74% of abduction-murder cases, the children were harmed or murdered within the first three hours of being abducted.
10. 71% of non-family abductions happen on the way to or from school.
Statistics show that 71% of non-family abductions happen outdoors. Notably, the most likely time of day for abductions is the afternoon or early in the morning, when children are walking to and from school.
11. Almost all children abducted by strangers are taken by men.
Child abduction statistics show that most kidnappers unknown to the victim are male, and two-thirds of victims in this category are young girls.
12. Abducted children often come from low-income households.
Children from low-income houses are more likely to be abducted and are more likely to have divorced or separated parents. The difference is quite substantial, with 9 in 1000 children experiencing an abduction in two-parent households and 84 in 1000 in single-parent households.
Statistics on Child Abductions by Family
Parental abduction is the main type of kidnapping in the US. Many reports question the labeling of this particular crime as it insinuates something ill-intentioned, while the majority of the time, the child is safe, but a parent has broken a custodial agreement. This mislabeling inflates statistics and creates a perception that stranger danger is around every corner.
13. More than 90% of abductions are committed by a parent.
(Journalist Secure, Reuters)
Parental abduction is the most common type of kidnapping, and statistics on child abduction indicate that 60% of the time, the person is the mother or another female relative.
Even though the abduction by a parent doesn’t have to be a negative experience for the kid, there may be long-term traumatizing effects. That’s especially the case when children experience grief, stress, or conflicts in loyalty because of the abduction.
14. Three in every thousand children are abducted by a family member each year.
(Journalist Secure) (Science Direct)
Almost 5% of children in the US have experienced a parental abduction in their lifetime. 90% of the abductions were conducted by a parent, with 10% reported as another family member. Using a GPS tracker for your kids is becoming a more popular trend, so parents can feel secure knowing where their child is.
Child Abduction Statistics by Country
Child abduction is sometimes seen as an American problem. With many high-profile cases that reach global scales, this stereotype is far from the truth. While the US has a fair number of abductions every year, the rest of the world isn’t doing much better. Reporting is an issue with this topic, as many lower-income countries simply don’t keep track of missing children or follow up on reports.
15. In 2019, Turkey was the country with the highest child abduction rate — 14.86 cases per 100,000 people.
Canada was a close second, with a rate of 13.82 abductions per 100,000 residents, followed by Kuwait, with 11.52 abductions per 100,000 people. Switzerland wasn’t far behind, with 8.61 abductions per 100,000 people.
Abducted child statistics are difficult to estimate, however, as many countries don’t report this activity at all.
16. Around 20 000 children go missing every year in Australia.
(Global Missing Kids)
Australia also deals with a significant missing child problem. With similar barriers to the United States and Canada, this issue is even more severe for indigenous kids. Studies show that 20% of abductions are indigenous teens, and 70% of cases are children living in out-of-home care.
17. In India, around 100 000 children go missing every year.
(Global Missing Kids)
With a population of 1.3 billion, India reports 100,000 missing children every year. It’s speculated that the number of missing children in India is unknowable since most cases are never reported. With a population of 84 million, Germany reports the same number of abductions, granted with a much higher rate. The issue of reporting plagues this problem, making it difficult to draw any concrete conclusions.
18. 20 000 children are abducted each year in China.
(Deutsche Welle) (QZ)
It’s reported that 70,000 people go missing every year in China, 20,000 of which are children. China is a unique case for reporting as parental abduction is not considered a criminal offense, nor is it part of the missing child count. The latest stats on child abduction indicate thousands of children in China are abducted for the purpose of being sold.
19. A child gets reported missing every two minutes in Europe.
Europe faces unique challenges to reporting and finding missing children. More than half of reported abduction cases are children who have run away, while 22.7% of abductions were by a parent. The number of missing children per year is also affected by child migration, human trafficking, and non-reporting in several countries.
20. 33% of missing children in Europe were found by the police in 2020.
Out of the 19 countries that contributed to the data collection, police found 33% of all missing children in 2020 in Europe. Notably, 38% of children came back on their own, and 20% were brought back by a third party.
21. Alaska has the highest number of missing people in the US.
When it comes to child abduction statistics in 2020 by state, Alaska takes the lead. The state not only has the highest number of missing people but also the highest crime rate in the country, almost double the national average crime rate.
Child abduction and missing children is a serious global issue. With many countries facing the same barriers to reporting, tracking, and ultimately finding lost kids, the lack of information has dire consequences. While the most common form of child abduction is by a non-custodial parent, there are other cases that are much more sinister that include human trafficking, child abuse, and long-term abduction.
With technological advancement and awareness-raising, the number of missing children that are found and returned home safely in the US is almost all of them. Through quick response and GPS tracking, many situations are resolved with no harm to the child. By being equipped with the right tools like stun guns and pepper sprays to respond to things that don’t seem right, everyone can help play a role in keeping children safe and at home, where they’re supposed to be.
People Also Ask
A large number of children get kidnapped every year. In 2020 alone, almost 400 000 youth were abducted in the US. The majority of cases were girls, accounting for 209, 375, compared to 178, 747 boys. Less than 160,000 adults were kidnapped, showing a relationship between age and likelihood of being abducted. Importantly, statistics indicate that more than 99% of abducted children make it back home alive.
Up to 71% of non-family abductions happen outdoors. The perpetrators usually intercept the child on their way to or from school, in parks, or in the streets. Abductions are most likely to happen in the afternoon or early in the morning. Indigenous and low-income children are most affected by this crime and over-represent in cases where child abuse occurs.
Alaska is the state with the highest number of missing people, including both adults and children. The state of Arizona takes second place, followed by Oregon, Washington, and Vermont. Taking into consideration population size, California has the highest missing persons rate in the United States. The highest rate of child abduction, by state, is currently unknown.
The most common type of child abduction is parental abduction. Parents that are violating custodial agreements are the most likely to commit kidnapping, and in more than 60% of the cases, the parent is either the mother or another female relative.
90% of all missing children get taken by their parents or another family member. For example, 78% of abductors are non-custodial parents in the United States.
Globally, around 8 million kids are kidnapped every year. The true numbers are difficult to know, as many countries and cases are never even reported. In the US, 2300 children get taken every single day. During 2020, there were more than 400 000 recorded cases.
Due to reporting variances, it’s difficult to say which country has the highest abduction rate of children. In 2019, Turkey had the highest child abduction rate — 14.86 cases per 100,000 people.
Canada took the second place, with a rate of 13.82 abductions per 100,000 residents, followed by Kuwait, with 11.52 abductions per 100,000 people. Switzerland wasn’t far behind, with 8.61 abductions per 100,000 people.
Children under the age of 12 may receive the most press due to their vulnerable status in society, but the majority of children who are abducted are teenagers between the age of 12 and 18. Runaways who are believed to be coerced into sex trafficking are considered part of this category, as well as stranger abductions that end in abuse and/or murder.
For the majority of abductions, 99% of children are returned home safely to their guardians without any harm. In Europe, 35% of missing children are recovered by the police. For stranger abductions, the statistics are less promising, with only 57% of children returning home in these cases. Child abduction statistics show that perpetrators of stranger abduction kill their victims in 40% of cases. Reporting, fast response, and technological tools are all contributing factors to quickly returning a child home.