Victim, perpetrator, family, and incident characteristics of infant and child homicide in the United States Air Force

Child Abuse Negl. 2002 Feb;26(2):167-86. doi: 10.1016/s0145-2134(01)00315-5.


Objective: The present study describes factors related to fatal abuse in three age groups in the United States Air Force (USAF).

Method: Records from 32 substantiated cases of fatal child abuse in the USAF were independently reviewed for 60 predefined factors.

Results: Males were over-represented in young child victims (between 1 year and 4 years of age) and child victims (between 4 years and 15 years of age) but not in infant victims (between 24 hours and 1 year of age). African-American infant victims and perpetrators were over-represented. Younger victims were more likely to have been previously physically abused by the perpetrator. Perpetrators were predominantly male and the biological fathers of the victims. Infant and young child perpetrators reported childhood abuse histories, while child perpetrators reported the highest frequency of mental health contact. Victims' families reported significant life stressors. Families of young child victims were more likely divorced, separated, or single. Incidents with infants and young children tended to occur without witnesses; incidents with child victims tended to have the victim's sibling(s) and/or mother present. Fatal incidents were more frequent on the weekend, in the home, and initiated by some family disturbance.

Conclusions: Differences among groups in factors related to infant and child homicide across age groups may assist in the development of more tailored abuse prevention efforts and may also guide future investigations.

MeSH terms

  • Cause of Death
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Crime Victims*
  • Family*
  • Female
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Military Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States