Perilous Parents and Sinister Strangers: Canadian Mainstream Media Portrayals of Child Abduction

Smith, Carleigh
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University of Guelph

Child abduction continues to be a focus of news media studies, particularly because it involves one of the world’s most vulnerable groups, children. This attention has led to a moral panic and the development of child abduction as a social problem. Using a thematic content analysis of local and mainstream Canadian newspapers, this study employs moral panic and moral regulation theories to examine the way child abduction is represented by the mainstream media between 1980-2017. The media’s representation of child abduction reflects a neoliberal agenda by reifying the nuclear family, increasing society’s fear of the stranger, and holding parents responsible for child safety. Such messages can help shape the way the public and the state understand child abduction but also can influence policy and resource decisions related to family law, parenting, and child safety.

child abduction, mainstream newspaper articles, Canada, media portrayals