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February 2003Vol. 4, No. 1Infant Homicide Rates Continue to Rise

According to a recent Child Trends DataBank report, between 1970 and 1990 the annual infant homicide rate rose from 4.3 to 8.4 deaths per 100,000 children under age 1. By the year 2000, that rate had reached 9.1 deaths per 100,000 children. Infant homicide rates now rival those of teenagers (currently 9.6 deaths per 100,000).

Homicide is the leading cause of injury death among infants. Half of the infant homicides occur by the fourth month of life, and the risk of homicide is highest on the day of birth--usually occurring at the hands of the infant's mother.

Males are more likely than females to be killed during the first year of life: 10.3 per 100,000 for boys and 7.8 per 100,000 for girls. Non-Hispanic blacks are substantially more at risk of infant homicide than other races. In 2000, non-Hispanic blacks had an infant homicide rate of 25.6 deaths per 100,000 children, while non-Hispanic whites had a rate of only 6.0 per 100,000.

The DataBank report indicated that the circumstances surrounding the child's birth are key factors in infant homicide. For example, among homicides on the first day of life, 95 percent of the victims were not born in a hospital. Maternal risk factors also play an important role in infant homicide. Among them are:

  • Second or subsequent infant born to an unmarried teenage mother.
  • An initial prenatal visit after the 6th month of pregnancy or no prenatal care.
  • A history of mental illness.
  • 12 or fewer years of education.
  • Premature birth.

The full report can be found on the Child Trends DataBank website at

For more information about infant mortality, contact:

National Fetal Infant Mortality Review (NFIMR)
Kathleen Buckley, MSN, CNM, Director

Related Item

For more information about infant homicide, see the June 2001 issue of CBX for "CDC Analyzes Statistics on Infant Homicides."