Journal Article

Child homicide, psychiatric disorder and dangerousness: a review and an empirical approach

J Stroud and C Pritchard

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 31, issue 2, pages 249-269
Published in print April 2001 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online April 2001 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Child homicide, psychiatric disorder and dangerousness: a review and an empirical approach

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Recently there has been increased professional recognition of the association between adult psychiatric disorder and childcare, although the association with child homicide continues to be overlooked. By reviewing the psychiatric child homicide studies and analysing of a decade of child murder in two English counties, the authors propose how dangerousness, psychiatric disorder and child homicide may be conceptualized. Whilst the vast majority of psychiatrically disturbed people pose no threat to their children, the psychiatrically disordered are over-represented in unselected child homicide case samples, women account for almost half the assailants and assaults are predominately an intra-familial phenomenon. Extra-familial assaults are associated with a sexual motive.

The original research confirms that the category of assailants were mentally ill [44 per cent], half of whom [51 per cent] were women, all mothers. Two-thirds of these women however, were mentally ill, and formed the largest single category of assailant. The remaining mothers were classified as 'neglecting'. Other intra-family assailants were biological fathers and all were psychiatrically disordered. The non-biological related fathers assailants were all cohabitees but had previous criminal convictions for personal violence. All these men were joint assailants with the child's mother. An epidemiological measure of the rate of child homicide by mentally ill mothers was 10 per 100,000 [pht]. Compared with the mentally ill mother assailant, 'neglecting' mothers killed more than twice the number of the mentally ill mother, but this rose to more than eight times when the non-biological father figure, who had previous convictions for violence, was involved. All the extra-familial murders were associated with child-sexual abuse [CSA]. However, all were multi-criminal CSA [MCCSA] assailants, and the MCCSA with previous convictions for violence killed at a rate more than 80 times that of the mentally ill mother. Practice and policy implications are briefly discussed.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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