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February 1988

Misperceptions About Missing Children

Am J Dis Child. 1988;142(2):127-128. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1988.02150020021018

Sir.—The article by Price and Desmond1 is a welcome addition to the scarce scientific literature on the topic of missing children. Their study of the knowledge and attitudes of fifth-grade children about this subject attests to the effectiveness of the media in arousing concern and its ineffectiveness in providing valid information about this subject. The apparent anxiety of the children lends support to the contention that children and parents have been victimized by the "missing children" campaign itself.2

The generic use of the term missing children has contributed in large measure to the widespread misperceptions of children and adults about abduction. As the authors point out, most "missing children" have run away from home; some have been abducted by an angry or anguished parent during the process of a divorce. A small proportion of missing children are abducted by strangers.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has urged