• June 2002
  • Vol. 3, No. 5

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CDC Analyzes Statistics on Infant Homicides

The first and eighth weeks of an infant's life are the most deadly according to an analysis of infant deaths by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). A CDC study published in the March 8 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report finds that infants are at the greatest risk of homicide during those weeks.

The CDC study focused on homicides of children during their first 12 months, the period when children are at highest risk of homicide. For the study, the CDC examined death certificates issued from 1989 - 1998. The CDC found 3,312 homicide victims among children younger than 1 year who died during that time period. Among homicides that occurred during the first week of life, the largest percentage of homicides occurred on the day of birth (82.6 percent).

Other findings were:

  • Among homicides on the first day of life, 95 percent of victims are not born in a hospital.
  • During the first week of life, 89 percent of perpetrators are female, usually the mother.
  • Mothers who kill their infants are more likely to be adolescents and have a history of mental illness.
  • The secondary peak in risk in week 8 might reflect the peak in the daily duration of crying among normal infants between weeks 6 and 8.

The study concludes by suggesting that homicides of infants might be reduced by preventing out-of-hospital births among high-risk women and by providing home visitation and parenting programs. The findings of the study could inform the timing and types of services offered to at-risk families.

Access the study online at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5109a3.htm

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