Research and information

A collection of current knowledge about the issue of missing as well as our research reports, projects, collaborations and events.  

Understanding the reasons why people go missing and the impact on families left behind enables Missing People and our partners to provide better services.

Missing People’s research team conducts research and evaluation projects on a range of topics, and seeks to share the findings through these web pages. 

The Policy and Research team also provides a hub of information about missing, advocates for change through campaigns and policy work, and monitors and evaluates the charity's impact.

Missing News

The Policy and Research team circulates a regular newsletter, Missing News, containing up to date information about research, policy, events and sector developments. To sign up to Missing News, or to read previous editions, click here.

Article Index

Why do children and young people go missing?

There are a wide range of reasons why adults and children go missing, with varying levels of intentionality, and often more than one cause. The charity is keen to enhance understanding of these factors further, which will require further research.

Among the most common reasons for children to be missing are:

  • Conflict, abuse and neglect at home: more than half of missing children have experienced this and 1 in 5 children felt forced to leave
  • Sexual exploitation: 7 in 10 young people who have been sexually exploited have also been reported missing
  • Trafficking: 1 in 4 trafficked children who are looked after in local authority care have gone missing

The most common issues raised in conversations with the children contacting our helpline are (in order of commonality):

  • Problems at home
  • Abuse, domestic violence or child sexual exploitation
  • Mental health issues including risks of suicide or self-harm
  • Living in care

Some of the most common issues discussed during return home interviews (RHIs) with children who have returned from missing are:

  • Mental health issues: 1 in 5 children and young people disclosed information about mental health issues, 1 in 10 was at risk of self-harm and 4% were at risk of suicide
  • Sexual exploitation: 1 in 7 of the children who completed RHIs had been sexually exploited
  • Criminal and other forms of exploitation: Nearly 1 in 10 had been a victim of criminal or other forms of exploitation

Research about the information shared in return home interviews can be found in A Safer Return

Research about the reasons why people go missing can be found in Lost from View (pg. 14-26)

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