Objectives: Child abuse is a presumed but largely untested risk factor for child homicide. This research investigated the social and child protective service history of child homicide victims.
Methods: A pairwise matched case-control design was used to assess documented child maltreatment as a risk factor for homicide vs unintentional injury death. Homicide victims aged 0 to 14 years were identified through Los Angeles Police Department case summaries. Control subjects (children who died of an unintentional injury) were matched to case subjects (children who died from homicide) by age, sex, race/ethnicity, and date of death. Case and control subjects were linked with county service records to determine any known history of maltreatment.
Results: A total of 220 children were homicide victims during 1978 through 1987 in the city of Los Angeles. Only one in six children who died (of homicide or unintentional injury) or his/her family was known to county social or child protective services prior to the death. Recorded history of child protective services was associated with homicide victimization (adjusted odds ratio = 3.40, 95% confidence interval = 1.25, 9.27).
Conclusions: Current service systems need assistance in identifying and protecting children at high risk of homicide.