Journal Article

Prior Agency Contact and Physical Abuse in Cases of Child Homicide


in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 27, issue 2, pages 241-253
Published in print April 1997 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online April 1997 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Prior Agency Contact and Physical Abuse in Cases of Child Homicide

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This article describes the features of child homicide offenders' previous contact with professional agencies and the incidence of prior physical violence towards their victims. This is based on an examination of 48 cases notified to the Director of Public Prosecutions in 1984 in which children had been killed by parents or parent-substitutes in England and Wales. Professional agencies had been involved with two-thirds of the offenders. Women's contacts were usually with medical agencies, and men's with social agencies. Of those cases with prior agency contact, whilst almost two-thirds involved a history of violence towards the child, in only a third of the cases had the reason for agency contact explicitly included concern about physical abuse. In fact, the most frequent reason for agency contact was concern about the offender's mental health. Agencies had taken action in two-thirds of the cases seen by them; this tended to be psychiatric treatment for women and child protection measures for men. A quarter of the offenders seen by professionals had been hostile to this intervention. The above findings run counter to the popular stereotype (fostered by the child death inquiries) that child-killers will have had extensive contact with social agencies and explicitly concerning physical abuse. Professionals need to be aware of more ‘subtle’ warning signals in identifying potentially filicidal parents.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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