There have been historically approximately 800 -1000 child homicides in the United States on an annual basis for the past three decades. The actual victimization rates are around 1.0 -2.0 deaths per 100,000 children which is slightly higher than UK figures.
Shockingly, it is parents who are statistically the biggest killer of children under age 5 and children under 1 are typically at most risk of homicide.
US Bureau of Justice Statistics - 1976-2005 Murders to Children less than 5 years old
|31%||killed by fathers|
|29%||killed by mothers|
|23%||killed by male acquaintances|
|7%||killed by other relatives|
|3%||killed by strangers|
Of those children killed by someone other than their parent, 81% were killed by males.
Factors in Infant & Child Homicide by parents
According to a UK Home Office Report , it is virtually impossible to identify up front which parents are most at risk for committing Child Homicide since every case has its own completely unique set of circumstances. However it is possible to identify some common factors that tend to be prevalent in some of these cases.
- Where females kill their infants this is often linked to Maternal Mental Disturbance (post natal depression). Many women go through a low after childbirth and this can trigger depression.
- For slightly older children, women who go on to kill their children may have had a history of psychiatric illness in the past.
- Males who go on to kill their children sometimes have had a history of abuse to their children or their partners or previous partners in the past.
- Parents/carers who have serious relationship problems tend to be at higher risk of child homicide. A common theme for fathers killing their children is when his relationship with his wife/partner breaks down. Some fathers take it out on their wives/partners by killing a defenceless child which is completely reprehensible
- It is generally accepted that poverty, poor housing etc. are factors but there is disagreement on how important these factors are
Drugs & Alcohol
- Parents who have a history of alcohol or drug abuse tend to be at higher risk of child homicide and access to cheap alcohol and drugs seems to increase the risk too.
- Younger parents when combined with some of the other factors, can be considered to be slightly more at risk of committing child homicide.
Parents' Support Network
- Parents who are isolated and have very little in the way of support networks to help them cope with the extra pressure of parenthood can be at a higher risk of child homicide
- Some children can be very demanding to care for and this is a factor in child homicides
Support if you have lost a child due to Homicide
See our resource links below :
Safety Tips to Prevent Child Homicides by Parents
What Adults Can Do Before they Have Children
- Ideally plan your children at a time when your life is stable, you have no mental issues, you have a loving, non-abusive and non-violent partner, and you are feeling relatively content and your finances can take the hit and you are not dependent on drugs or alcohol.
- Be fully prepared for parenthood, use the 9 months to read up carefully and understand the full implications of having a child and the sacrifices you will need to make. There is a lot to learn.
- Understand that some children sleep well and cry little, others sleep badly and cry a lot through no fault of their own. Develop coping & support mechanisms up front in case you have a difficult child and list these out ready in case you need them. This could involve friends & neighbours, social services, family etc.
What Parents Can Do Once They Have Children
- If you are ever in any doubt as to your ability to cope then you seek immediate help. There are plenty of resources you can call on that are ready to do just that.
- Never abuse drink or drugs if you are looking after children. Frustrations are heightened by these substances.
- Realise you can never afford to shake or show frustration to a baby because it could be fatal.
- Encourage your health visitor to stay in touch : these extremely dedicated and professional people are a huge source of help and advice
- Try and maintain a healthy relationship with your partner and build a strong family unit. Do your utmost not to allow the inevitable extra pressures to ruin this relationship.
- Take breaks and share the load.
- Ensure no access to firearms in the household
- If you feel your partner is a threat to your child seek confidential professional advice immediately
Safety Tips to Prevent Your Child Being Killed by a Stranger
- Follow all good practices to minimise burglary by ensuring your home is secure (e.g secure doors and windows), well lit front and back areas etc.
- Only allow your children out of your sight and reach if they are old enough to look after themselves and have been trained in self safety skills and techniques. Don't ever allow yourself to get distracted. It only takes a moment to lose track of your child.
- If you are not in charge of your child and they are not yet old enough or skilled enough to look after themselves, make sure a named adult is in charge of your child at all times (e.g. on a school trip).
- Teach kids 'People Safety' skills (how to be safe with people). Go through a proactive programme of training with them (see for example KidPower.org).
- Always support your child, listen a lot and get a great relationship going with them. They will come to you with their problems a lot more and you may be able to spot something they can't (but try not to preach)
- Work from birth on your child's self-esteem : this will give them the confidence to challenge assertive strangers
- Always follow good e-safety practices
- Never allow complete strangers to strike up a rapport with your children e.g. offering candy etc.