The cultural complex of innocence: An examination of media and social construction of missing white woman syndrome

Sarah Land Stein


This study examined the etiology and promulgation of the sociological phenomenon known as missing white woman syndrome . It was hypothesized that missing white woman syndrome may not be entirely attributable to racial disparity as has been claimed in the past. Rather, citing the work of Dr. Carl Jung, the researcher believed that missing white woman syndrome may be partially explained by a concept known as a cultural complex. The cultural complex that was hypothesized for purposes of this study is one related to innocence: That is, as a western society, we have been culturally overexposed to the blonde, Caucasian female as the archetypal image of innocence through art, literature, and other media platforms. The researcher first collected 1,323 cases of missing persons from The Charley Project; an online, representative sample of missing persons in the United States. Demographic information was collected for purposes of statistical analysis. The researcher then randomly selected 533 missing persons' cases from Google, CNN, and MSNBC. It was discovered primarily that blonde, Caucasian female are portrayed in a more positive and innocent manner by the media, and also receive a higher caliber of investigation into their disappearance than their Caucasian counterparts with varying hair colors and minorities.