Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Should you be worried your child will be kidnapped by strangers? Nope.

BoingBoing talks about the crazy high and erroneous statistic about the number of children that go missing a year.

I put together a chart from the data from the original study from 2002 referenced in this article. Mostly because I think pictures help.

The left side is the data from the caretaker reported missing children, the right is from the reported to authorities missing children.  These are rates per thousand children in a year, you can just look at that if you can grok the numbers or one could take the 9 runaways/throwaway per 1000 children and say that every 111 years your child is likely to be missing because of being a runaway/throwaway.  Your actual experience may differ.

If I was to look at this and be concerned for my child having one of these events happening to them, I might say the following for each:

  • Missing but benign doesn't worry me    
  • We all endeavoring to make our homes ones where our children don't feel the need to runaway and we won't want to throw them out.   
  • Where possible I might try to maintain good relations with an ex-spouse or keep track of them to avoid a family abduction (this one has many dimensions for which I am sympathetic.). 
  • There is already good advice in the thread for the missing involuntary lost or injured (be careful out there, teach them their phone numbers)
  • Decide how much prep you want to have for the once every 2000 to 5000 years that a given child will be abducted by non-family (some of which definition includes people we might call family members) vs. the 1 every 7 years you will go to the emergency room for an unintentional injury (more stats).  

Depending on your risk tolerance this figure may or may not let you sleep well at night if you are a parent.

I have other issues with the numbers from the study such as classifying some incidents in two categories so the percentages don's add up to 100% or not having the original data to see how the rates change with the age of the missing child.

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