Sunday, February 25, 2007

Physical abuse of children

5. Physical abuse of children

An average of 25 children were killed each year by their parents or step-parents in the period 01 July 1989 – 30 June 2002. The risk of death from a parent or step-parent is similar for boys and girls. In this period, fathers and step-fathers were responsible for 63% of all filicides according to the report Family Homicide in Australia. [However, the graph in Fig 2 of the report suggests that this figure is closer to 50%].

Mothers and step-mothers were slightly more responsible than fathers and step-fathers for killing their children for children under the age of 15yrs [eg 55% ?].

Family Homicide in Australia, Australian Institute of Criminology, Jenny Mouzos, Catherine Rushforth, 12-14 Feb 2003.

Child homicide rates 1989-1999 [note, all child homicide, no just filicide]
(rate per 100,000 relevant population)

male perp. female perpetrator
less than 1yr 2.8 2.55
1-4yrs 1.05 1.25
5-9yrs 0.55 0.52
10-14yrs 0.48 0.43
15-17yrs 1.7 1.1

Australian Institute of Criminology, 2000, Jenny Mouzos

Solved Child Homicides (under 18yrs) in 2001 in Canada

Total Family Child Homicides 43 62%
Total fathers 20 29%
Biological father 16 23%
Step-father 4 6%
Total mothers 17 25%
Biological mother 16 23%
Step-mother 1 1%
Other family 6 8%
Total non-family 26 38%

“Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2003” Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.
Catalogue no. 85-224-XIE. Ministry of Industry, June 2003. Chapter 3 (Kathy Au Coin).

Even though more children live with their biological father than step-father, this data does not support the contention that children are more likely to be killed by their step-father than their biological father.

Here, the total number of filicides was the same for biological fathers and biological mothers.

Given that it is likely that a number of filicides by fathers follow family separation and prejudiced Orders by the Family Court system, when these filicides are treated separately (ie some of them may be preventable given a Presumption of Equal Parenting Time), mothers may generally be more likely to commit filicide. (It can also be argued that this is because they spend more time with their children).

Key observations of the Dewar Research 2004 which reviewed studies in

· A parent is the principal suspect/perpetrator in 50% to 70% of all family
child homicides

· Male parents are responsible for about two thirds of family child homicides
and female parents about one third

· Biological fathers are responsible for about 55% of murders of their own
offspring and biological mothers about 45%

· Mothers are responsible for the majority of infant deaths

· A substantial number of filicides occur following parental separation,
primarily by fathers: of these, a substantial proportion then commit suicide
and a further significant proportion require psychiatric services

· Male parents who kill their children are generally treated more harshly and
unsympathetically by the legal process than female parents: fathers are
more likely than mothers to be charged with murder than manslaughter,
and more fathers than mothers convicted of manslaughter are imprisoned;
convicted mothers are more likely than fathers to be hospitalised or treated
rather than imprisoned.

Child Homicide – Review of Statistics and Studies compiled by David J Yarwood on behalf of Dewar Research June 2004

A study of family homicides in 1994 in British Columbia by the British Columbia Institute
Against Family Violence (BCIFV) found that about one third of filicides occurred following
parental separation. Filicide committed following parental separation was primarily committed by fathers or those acting in their place.

“Overview of Family Violence”. BC Institute Against Family Violence, Canada 2000. Chapter 4 Familial

In Australia data from the National Homicide Monitoring Program for the period July 1989
to December 1993 revealed that there were 126 children homicide victims under age 11 in
the period. Of the 123 children with known details, 43 (35%) died as a consequence of family separation and fathers were the killers. 17 of the 28 family dispute incidents resulting in the deaths of these 43 children
also involved the suicide of the father.

Strang, Heather. Children as Victims of Homicide. Australian Institute of Criminology. Trends
and issues in crime and criminal justice, No.53. Canberra, March 1996.

This suggests that about 11 children a year are murdered by fathers as a result of family separation. How many of these murders (and murder-suicides) could be avoided by a Presumption of Equal Parenting Time ?

Women’s groups may argue that lives of children saved by a policy of Presumption of Equal Parenting Time may be negated by an increase in children murdered by violent fathers who have been given greater access to their children as a result of the policy.

Violence of parents towards their children

In the United States in 2004 it is documented that children were killed twice as often by their mothers as by their fathers. There is no reason to believe this is not the pattern generally.
Table 4-5 Perpetrator Relationships of Fatalities in the United States, 2004Child Maltreatment 2004Child Fatalities Number % Mother Only 307 31.3Father Only 141 14.4Mother and Father 201 20.5Mother and Other 91 9.3
Father and Other 12 1.2
Female Partner of Parent 1 0.1Male Partner of Parent 32 3.3Other 84 8.4
Unknown or Missing 102 10.4
Total 981 98.9 (rounding)
CAF (Admin. for Children and Families)
Based on data from 32 States.
US Dept. of Health and Human Services
Administration for Children and Families

There is an argument that because women on average spend more time with their children they are more likely to murder or accidentally kill their children. This study does not distinguish between murder and manslaughter, and it is unclear to what extent, if at all, it includes accidental death.

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