Book cover

Few crimes provoke the kind of collective fear, outrage, and fascination that child abductions do. Beginning with a string of high-profile kidnappings in 2002, the media-dubbed “summer of child abductions,” over the last decade stories about missing children have captured national headlines and dominated public discourses about crime and deviance, child safety, parenting, the American family, and gender and sexuality. 

Snatched is the first book-length study to interrogate the predominant myths centered on gender and class that shaped mainstream U.S. news coverage of kidnappings in the 2000s. Through an exploration of hundreds of reports from newspapers, news magazines, television broadcasts, and web stories, Snatched critically analyzes how news narratives construct the phenomenon of child abductions, the young girls and boys who fall victim, the male perpetrators of these horrific crimes, and the adult victims of long-term abductions who were found years later. The book’s interdisciplinary nature, methodological rigor, and thorough investigation into some of the most riveting and revolting crimes of the last decade make Snatched a worthy, important, and timely contribution to the fields of media studies and girlhood studies.

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Praise for Snatched

“An interdisciplinary eye-opener, grounded in the fields of childhood, media, gender and cultural studies, Snatched: Child Abductions in U.S. News Media offers a careful analysis of one of the most daunting moral panics of our time. But the book goes well beyond that specific social concern – it uses it as a lens for understanding age, race and gender hierarchies within our society and culture, and the journalistic practices of telling us stories about them. An original, engaging, intellectually illuminating and socially nuanced analysis supported by vivid illustrations of “parents’ worst nightmare” that will enrich the bookshelf of anyone who cares about children, families, and the world around them.” ~ Dr. Dafna Lemish, Dean, College of Mass Communication and Media Arts and founding editor of the Journal of Children and Media

“Scholars and students interested in moral panics, cultural narratives, and news will find a fascinating read in Snatched . Spring-Serenity Duvall and Leigh Moscowitz effectively weave together theory and textual analysis, taking us into the mediated world of abducted children, their families, and kidnappers. The book highlights the racial, gendered, and classed disparities in news coverage as it questions the ethics of journalism that sensationalizes and capitalizes upon missing children.” ~ Dr. Carol M. Liebler, Professor, Department of Communications, S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University

“Spring-Serenity Duvall and Leigh Moscowitz provide a sophisticated and accessible analysis of news coverage concerning ‘every parent’s worst nightmare’—and in doing so expose the myths and moral panics rooted in gender, race, class, sexuality, and nation that shape U.S. cultural views of innocence, family and childhood, as well as deviance and crime. Their book goes well beyond the common criticism of news organizations that they afford outsized coverage to white, middle- and upper-class girls who are abducted, thereby ignoring children of color and those who do not fit the preferred profile. Instead, Snatched  provides nuanced readings of the news to generate fresh insights into this horrific crime.” ~ Dr. Marian Meyers, Professor, Department of Communication and the Institute of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Georgia State University

Watch an interview with Leigh Moscowitz

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Peter Lang Publishing


Chapter about abducted boys also included in The Mediated Youth Reader.

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