Who kills children? Re-examining the evidence

Authors: Pritchard, C., Davey, J. and Williams, R.

Journal: The British Journal of Social Work

Volume: 43

Issue: 7

Pages: 1403-1438

Publisher: Oxford Univiesity Press

DOI: 10.1093/bjsw/bcs051


We challenge the assumption of a continuum of neglect to severe abuse, to the extreme to a child death. Avoiding of such tragedies has become an indicator of the effectiveness of child protection, reflected in high profile cases, leading to a practice culture of fearing the `worst case scenario’ and defensive bureaucratisation. We explore these `worst case scenarios’ by asking actually, ‘who killed children’? Macro and micro research are re-analysed and placed in a socio-economic context, which recognises that child neglect is linked to relative poverty, but will demonstrate that, statistically, relative poverty is Not related to Child-Abuse-Related-Deaths (CARD) though poverty always makes a problematic situation worse.

While CARD and children’s homicide assailants are extremely rare, it will be show n that the majority of assailants are mentally ill and men, especially step-fathers/ cohabitees, with previous convictions for violence, who proportionately pose the highest physical risk to children and that people who actually killed children problem’s are essentially psychological / criminological. The authors conclude that better assessments can lead to earlier appropriate treatment and preventive intervention and a more accurate identification of people who pose the most serious, life-threatening risk, though caution is required in regard to `false positives’ but by ial CARD, giving the child protection -psychiatric-criminological interface greater weighting in the assessment of risk.

Source: Manual