Parental Abduction Research – The Psychological Impact on Children

In monitoring the cases over the past twenty years, we have seen the Protective Parent use the Necessity Defense. Rather than use the legal remedies of Child Protective Services, the Family Court and at the very least, hire a therapist for the child, the custodial-embattled underground mother places judge, jury and executioner and goes into hiding. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, we saw the emergence of the very secretive “protective parent” group or cult like Faye Yager’s Children of the Underground. When a mother goes into hiding, she leaves all of her possessions (furniture, cars, personal belongings) with the Domestic Violence Shelters or unlicensed proclaimed child advocates like Interior Decorator Faye Yager. We’ve seen the Domestic Violence Groups, most that receive Federal Funds state that they all know the phone number to these protective parent networks, but they don’t recommend it because the abducting parent would most likely go to prison if caught. The Domestic Violence Groups have also rallied behind these underground mothers with the same type of maternal custody rhetoric that worked in the ’70s and sometimes in the ’80s for the “feared for my life” family court litigation that led to sole custody and visitation for the weekend dads. However, with the ’90s brought a new kind of realization by the Family Law Courts that the standard of “joint custody” would reduce the number of high-conflict cases and that “domestic violence” or “family violence” was a two-way-street. With a small number of mothers getting arrested for “family violence” when her husband ended up with the scratches, the courts couldn’t necessarily award sole custody to the husband that had an abusive spouse. There was also an increased awareness of the Family Abduction or International Family Abduction Crime with the Elian Gonzalez, Sean Goldman and recovery of Underground Children. There were some up and coming young Federal and State District Attorneys that were able to get parental kidnapping and passport forgery convictions that became easier in the post-911 era.

With all that said, what is usually forgotten is most of these cases is the severe psychological impact that the parental kidnapping crime has on children. With the large amount of Federal dollars that is spent on Domestic Violence Research for the primary gender-oriented Domestic Violence Shelters — the rhetoric is perfectly crafted as it was in the ’70s that if a mother believes that she might be a family violence survivor then the husband’s visitation or even his parental rights should be terminated. And as we’ve seen in many cases, as the underground mom goes to trial, she normally expands her story to the point where Faye Yager gets involved, there is an allegation of sexual abuse and even satanic ritual abuse as the “Necessity Defense” is invoked. With all those allegations as defense attorneys do, again the psychological impact of a family abduction is usually limited at trial or lost in the plea bargain.

So here is some of the research that is available on Family Abductions. This material has been used by some of the Prosecuting Federal and State District Attorneys for finding Expert Witnesses and responding to the old school “Domestic Violence” and/or “Necessity Defense”. In reviewing this literature, we found a message from Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. on his commitment to enforce this crime. With the number of adult children of these underground mom’s now surfacing, it would be nice some new verdicts in 2014 that will further deter this heinous crime against children.

The Editor

The Children of the Underground Watch

Message from Eric H. Holder

Parental Abduction Resources

“Victims of long-term abductions, however, fared much worse. They were often deceived by the abducting parent and frequently moved to avoid being located. This nomadic, unstable lifestyle made it difficult for children to make friends and settle into school, if they attended at all. Over time, younger children could not easily remember the left-behind parent, which had serious repercussions when they were reunited. Older children felt angry and confused by the behavior of both parents—the abductor for keeping them away from the other parent and the left-behind parent for failing to rescue them.”– Parental Abduction: A Review of Literature by Janet Chiancone, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs

The Crime of Family Abduction, A Child’s and Parent’s Perspective (U.S. Department of Justice Program (May 2010)

Impact of Family Abduction National Organization of Forensic Social Workers  4/16/2012. Geoffrey L. Greif, DSW, LCSW-C. School of Social Work.

Parental Child Abduction and its Impact, When a parent kidnaps a child long-term problems begin by Geoffrey Greif, Ph.D. in Buddy System (Psychology Today, November 13, 2010)

Harmful Effects of Parental Abduction in Child Custody Cases (Washington Courts)

Expert: Parental abduction never in child’s best interest by KJ Mullins (Digital Journal Reports, 10/3/2010)

Dr. Geoffrey Greif References

Boss, P.  2006. Loss, Trauma, and Resilience. New York: Norton.

Finkelhor et al., 2002. The Nat’l Incidence Studies of Missing, Abd’d, Runaway, & Thrownaway Children (II).  Wash., DC: DOJ, OJJDP.

Greif, G. L. 2003.  Treatment implications for adults who were parentally abducted when young.  FamilyTherapy, 30, 151-165.

Greif, G. L. & Bowers, D.  2007.  Unresolved loss: Issues in working with adults whose sibling was kidnapped years ago.  American Jo. of FamilyTherapy. 35, 203-19.

Greif, G. L. 2009.  The long-term aftermath of child abduction: Two case studies. Am Journal of FamilyTherapy, 37, 273-286.

Greif, G. L.  2010. Family Reunification after a lengthy abduction. Nat’l Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Wash., DC: DOJ.

Greif, G. L.  In Press. Ambiguous reunification. Families in Society.

Greif, G. L. & Hegar, R. L.  1993 When Parents Kidnap: The Stories Behind the Headlines.  New York: The Free Press.

Office of Juvenille Justice References

Agopian, M.W. 1981. Parental Child Stealing. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

Agopian, M.W. 1984. The impact on children of abduction by parents. Child Welfare 63(6):511–519.

Agopian, M.W., and Anderson, G.L. 1981. Characteristics of parental child stealing. Journal of Family Issues 2(4):471–483.

Blomquist, M.E. 1992. Prosecutors’ Response to Parental Child Stealing: A State-Wide Study. Final Report to the U.S. Department of Justice. Sacramento, CA: Office of the California Attorney General.

Chiancone, J., and Girdner, L. 2000. Issues in Resolving Cases of International Child Abduction. Final Report to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Washington, DC: American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law.

Collins, J.J., Powers, L.L., McCalla, M.E., Ringwalt, C.L., and Lucas, R.M. 1993. Law Enforcement Policies and Practices Regarding Missing Children and Homeless Youth. Research Summary. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Finkelhor, D., Hotaling, G., and Sedlak, A. 1990. Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children in America—First Report: Numbers and Characteristics, National Incidence Studies. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Finkelhor, D., Hotaling, G., and Sedlak, A. 1991. Children abducted by family members: A national household survey of incidence and episode characteristics. Journal of Marriage and the Family 53:805–817.

Forehand, R., Long, N., Zogg, C., and Parrish, E. 1989. Child abduction: Parent and child functioning following return. Clinical Pediatrics 28(7):311–316.

Girdner, L. 1994a. Executive summary. In Obstacles to the Recovery and Return of Parentally Abducted Children, Final Report, edited by L. Girdner and P. Hoff. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, pp. i–xxvi.

Girdner, L. 1994b. Introduction. In Obstacles to the Recovery and Return of Parentally Abducted Children, Final Report, edited by L. Girdner and P. Hoff. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, pp. 1–1 to 1–13.

Girdner, L. 1994c. Key laws relating to parental abductions and obstacles to their effectiveness. In Obstacles to the Recovery and Return of Parentally Abducted Children, Final Report, edited by L. Girdner and P. Hoff. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, pp. 2–1 to 2–13.

Girdner, L. 1994d. The view from State missing children clearinghouses. In Obstacles to the Recovery and Return of Parentally Abducted Children, Final Report, edited by L. Girdner and P. Hoff. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, pp. 9–1 to 9–30.

Greif, G.L. 1998a. The long-term impact of parental abduction on children: Implications for treatment. The Journal of Psychiatry and Law 26:45–60.

Greif, G.L. 1998b. Many years after the parental abduction: Some consequences of relevance to the court system. Family and Conciliation Courts Review 36(1):32–40.

Greif, G.L., and Hegar, R.L. 1991. Parents whose children are abducted by the other parent: Implications for treatment. American Journal of Family Therapy 19:215–225.

Greif, G.L., and Hegar, R.L. 1993. When Parents Kidnap: The Families Behind the Headlines. New York, NY: The Free Press.

Hanson, L. 2000. Second Comprehensive Study of Missing Children. Bulletin. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Hatcher, C., Barton, C., and Brooks, L. 1992. Families of Missing Children. Final Report to Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. San Francisco, CA: Center for the Study of Trauma, University of California–San Francisco.

Hatcher, C., Barton, C., and Brooks, L. 1993. Reunification of Missing Children: Training Manual. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

Hegar, R.L., and Greif, G.L. 1993. How parentally abducted children fare: An interim report on families who recover their children. The Journal of Psychiatry and Law 21:373–383.

Hegar, R.L., and Greif, G.L. 1994. Parental abduction of children from interracial and cross-cultural marriages. Journal of Comparative Family Studies 25(1):135–146.

Janvier, R., McCormick, K., and Donaldson, R. 1990. Parental kidnapping: A survey of left-behind parents. Juvenile and Family Court Journal 41:1–8.

Johnston, J.R. 1994. Final report of stage 1, part B: Identification of Risk Factors—The interview study. In Prevention of Parent or Family Abduction Through Early Identification of Risk Factors, Report to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, edited by L. Girdner and J. Johnston. Washington, DC: American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law.

Johnston, J.R., Campbell, L.E., and Mayes, S.S. 1985. Latency children in post-separation and divorce disputes. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry 24:563–574.

Kiedrowski, J., Jayewardene, C.H.S., and Dalley, M. 1994. The Police and Parental Abduction: An Overview for Police Direction. Ottawa: Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Kiser, M.A. 1987. Parental kidnapping: Identifying high risk factors. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Kansas: Wichita State University.

Klain, E.J. 1995. Parental Kidnapping, Domestic Violence and Child Abuse: Changing Legal Responses to Related Violence. Arlington, VA: American Prosecutors Research Institute.

Noble, D.N., and Palmer, C.E. 1984. The painful phenomenon of child snatching. Social Casework 65(6):330–336.

Plass, P.S., Finkelhor, D., and Hotaling, G.T. 1995. Police response to family abduction episodes. Crime and Delinquency 41(2):205–217.

Plass, P.S., Finkelhor, D., and Hotaling, G.T. 1996. Family abduction outcomes: Factors associated with duration and emotional trauma to children. Youth and Society 38(1):109–130.

Plass, P.S., Finkelhor, D., and Hotaling, G.T. 1997. Risk factors for family abduction: Demographics and family interaction characteristics. Journal of Family Violence 12(3):333–347.

Sagatun, I.J., and Barrett, L. 1990. Parental child abduction: The law, family dynamics, and legal system responses. Journal of Criminal Justice 18:433–442.

Sagatun-Edwards, I.J. 1996. Final report of stage 1, part A: A documentary study. In Prevention of Parent or Family Abduction Through Early Identification of Risk Factors, Report to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, edited by L. Girdner and J. Johnston. Washington, DC: American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law.

Schetky, D. H., and Haller, L. H. 1983. Child psychiatry and law: Parental kidnapping. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry 22:279–285.

Senior, N., Gladstone, T., and Nurcombe, B. 1982. Child snatching: A case report. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry 21:579–583.

Terr, L. 1983. Child snatching: A new epidemic of an ancient malady. The Journal of Pediatrics 103:151–156.

U.S. Bureau of the Census. 1989. Current Population Reports, Series P-20, no. 433. Marital Status and Living Arrangements: March 1988. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

This review was prepared by Janet Chiancone, M.S., Program Manager, Research and Program Development Division, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

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One Response to Parental Abduction Research – The Psychological Impact on Children

  1. […] is not a large amount of published research on psychological impact on children as victims of a parental kidnapping. I would encourage Kelly Rutherford and her […]

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