Child Homicide: The Forgotten Issue; Parental Alienation Policy Paper Appears

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Child Homicide

While Women’s Aid and like groups make great play with “femicide”, the killing of females by their partners,  they are very quiet about another aspect of Domestic Violence: the abuse, maltreatment and in the extreme case, the killing of children. They have good reason to be quiet. Incidentally about 20-25% of partner homicides are of men, a still significant figure.

Studies of child homicides have been carried out in England and more regularly in the US where they are available on the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System  (NCANDS)  website. Per year of age range the homicide rate of children over one year old in England is substantially less than that for adults of pre-retirement age. In sharp contrast however, infants under one year old suffer by far the greatest homicide rate. US data confirm this same very emphatic pattern of high infant homicide rates. Indeed US data from the Children’s Bureau 2018 shows that infants died at three times the rate of children who were one year old. The greater prevalence of homicide of infants is significant when considering the sex of perpetrators.

This serious issue is never considered in the Irish media; there are no prizes for guessing why not.


In English law infanticide is defined as the killing of a child under the age of one year by the child’s mother. The purpose of introducing  the law of infanticide was explicitly to facilitate mitigation for mothers killing their infant children, infanticide being regarded as a lesser offence than murder or manslaughter. Such mitigation or the offence of infanticide itself is not available for men.

A large study, Child homicide perpetrators worldwide: a systematic review, covering a wide range of countries was published in the British Medical Journal by Heidi Stockl et al in 2017.

This was a meta study which after screening led to the inclusion of 126 studies which all reported the number or proportion of perpetrators of child homicide. Some of the key findings are:

  • Over the 14 countries for which there was relevant data, parents committed 77.8% of homicides of children under one year old.
  • Over the 12 countries for which there was relevant data, mothers committed 71.7% of parental homicides of children under one year old.
  • Over the 13 countries for which there was relevant data, almost all neonaticides (killing within the first day of life) were committed by mothers.

Country-level surveys conducted in the United Kingdom, Austria, and Finland confirm these findings.

Considering child homicides for all ages,  NCANDS  gives the US data for 2017:

  • 80.1% of child fatalities due to abuse or neglect were the responsibility of one or more parent.


  • The mother acting alone was responsible in 30.5% of cases, the father acting alone in 15.5% of cases, and mother and father both responsible in 22.3% of cases.


  • All told the mother was implicated in 63.6% of cases, the father in 38.8% of cases.

This is a clear indication of greater perpetration by mothers than by fathers based on a large US dataset.

In England prosecution for an initial charge of infanticide almost never happens now. This begs the question: are infanticides being registered as homicides as they should be? The sentence meted out for a conviction of infanticide is never imprisonment. Even a suspended sentence is unusual. Generally a hospital sentence, probation or a supervision order is made.

Parental Alienation: Upcoming battle at the UN Human Rights Council

The following press release was issued by the international Alliance DAVIA on May 18:

Recently the United Nations issued a report on “Custody, Violence Against Women, and Violence Against Children”. Written by the “Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences,” Reem Alsalem, the report refers to parental alienation as “theoretical pseudo-concepts.” The numerous biases and falsehoods contained in the report are truly breath-taking.

This report will be considered by the UN Human Rights Council at its annual session June 19 to July 14. Here’s the web page of the Council:

A group of organizations are joining together to stop the Human Rights Council from approving this report. DAVIA will be supporting this effort. If you would like to participate, please contact DAVIA member Jan James of Parental Alienation UK:

Policy Paper Issued

On May 25 the Dept of Justice issued its long- awaited Parental Alienation – Policy Paper . This followed a Research Report published some time before this: Parental Alienation – A Review of Understandings, Assessment and Interventions. The Paper is careful to note that there are arguments Pro and Contra and makes no definitive judgment. But it does not dismiss the concept of Parental Alienation, PA, as a “pseudo condition” a disparaging term used by the UN Rapporteur and also by Bernard Durkan TD who has been notable in his recent efforts to condemn PA following representation from some female constituents of his.
Instead the Paper makes six recommendations outlining how to address the matter while noting the close connection between PA and family breakdown. It calls for the extension of family support services, including Alternative Dispute Resolution, and the need to make them more accessible.

This is a very welcome move and confirms a slow but steady shift away from the adversarial court system which has for so long bedevilled the whole process of breakdown resolution. There is growing awareness of PA in the context of bitter family breakdown and the courts are taking this matter seriously where it comes up more and more often.


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