One in five homicides of children 2 to 14 years of age is related to intimate partner violence

Greater accuracy in reporting IPV-related child homicide cases is needed to improve prevention, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine


Ann Arbor, November 8, 2018

Approximately 20 percent of homicides of children 2 to 14 years of age in the United States may be related to intimate partner violence (IPV), a fact that is currently underreported by the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS), according to a new study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The findings will be presented at the American Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting in San Diego on November 12, 2018.

“We know that the burden of IPV extends beyond the partners involved. Our study documents that one in five child homicides are related to IPV. These crimes are often triggered by divorce or custody issues. Over 60 percent involved firearms and most incidents took place at home,” explained lead investigator Avanti Adhia, ScD, who is currently a Senior Fellow at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA, USA.

The investigators used the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) to examine 1,386 child homicide victims (aged 2 to 14) whose death occurred from 2005-14 in 16 US states. They compared the data with accompanying narratives from coroner/medical examiner and law enforcement reports to characterize the incidents for victim and perpetrator demographics, weapon type, and immediate stressors. Through this analysis they uncovered discrepancies that pointed to a significant undercount of IPV incidents. The details in the narratives led investigators to identify nearly twice as many IPV-related cases than NVDRS had identified by its quantitative variable: 280 (20.2 percent of the sample), up from 144 (10 percent), were related to IPV. They also determined that IPV-related child homicide cases were often triggered by stressors such as separations, divorce proceedings, and custody issues and were often perpetrated at home by a male using a firearm, who then committed suicide.

Violence against women is part of the current national conversation in unprecedented ways but has been consistently underfunded. The adverse health outcomes of children who witness IPV have been well documented, but less attention has been paid to the children who are physically harmed. The investigators believe that research that helps uncover and quantify the effects of IPV can lend crucial support that directs attention and resources towards this major public health concern.

“We hope that this study provides additional urgency to focus attention and resources to prevent IPV and save children’s lives by helping people cope with stressors before they lead to deadly incidents and limiting access to firearms. We also hope to contribute to the improvement of NVDRS, a critical surveillance system that enables law enforcement, policy makers, and researchers to monitor violent deaths over time, across the country,” commented Dr. Adhia. She noted that NVDRS integrates diverse sources of information that provide rich information on violent deaths, but is relatively new and can be improved to become an even more valuable tool.

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Notes for editors
The article is “The Role of Intimate Partner Violence in Homicides of Children Aged 2–14 Years,” by Avanti Adhia, ScD, S. Bryn Austin, ScD, Garrett M. Fitzmaurice, ScD, and David Hemenway, PhD (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2018.08.028). It appears in advance of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, volume 56, issue 1 (January 2019) published by Elsevier.

The study was conducted while Avanti Adhia, ScD, was with the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA.

Full text of this article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Jillian B. Morgan at +1 734 936 1590 or ajpmmedia@elsevier.com. Journalists who wish to interview the authors should contact Avanti Adhia, ScD, at aba567@mail.harvard.edu or aadhia@uw.edu.

About the American Journal of Preventive Medicine
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine is the official journal of the American College of Preventive Medicine and the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research. It publishes articles in the areas of prevention research, teaching, practice and policy. Original research is published on interventions aimed at the prevention of chronic and acute disease and the promotion of individual and community health. The journal features papers that address the primary and secondary prevention of important clinical, behavioral and public health issues such as injury and violence, infectious disease, women's health, smoking, sedentary behaviors and physical activity, nutrition, diabetes, obesity, and alcohol and drug abuse. Papers also address educational initiatives aimed at improving the ability of health professionals to provide effective clinical prevention and public health services. The journal also publishes official policy statements from the two co-sponsoring organizations, health services research pertinent to prevention and public health, review articles, media reviews, and editorials. www.ajpmonline.org

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