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Risk factors for child death during an intimate partner homicide

Alexandra de Leon, HIPRC | January 28, 2021
3 minutes to read

New study from HIPRC may help direct prevention efforts for child fatality during intimate partner homicides.

A new study by the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center (HIPRC) examined risk factors for child fatality during intimate partner homicides (IPH).

Using data from the National Violence Death Reporting System (NVDRS), researchers at HIPRC, University of Michigan, University of Washington School of Medicine, and the Department of Epidemiology of the University of Washington School of Public Health have conducted one of the first studies using live controls within NVDRS that could help direct prevention efforts for child death during IPH. The study was published December 30, 2020 in Children and Youth Services Review.

Researchers found the following risk behaviors increased the likelihood of a child being killed during an IPH incident:

  • perpetrator history of suicidal behavior
  • prior rape of the intimate partner victim
  • presence of a non-biological child of the perpetrator living in the home
  • perpetrator job stressors

“While reducing child deaths in IPH incidents will require a multi-faceted approach, additional screening and greater protections for IPV victims with children whose partner exhibits some of these identified risk factors may be important avenues to help prevent the death of child victims during IPH,” says lead author and HIPRC researcher Vivian Lyons, PhD, MPH.

Lyons says these findings highlight the need for professionals, who are in contact with IPV victims, to understand the additional risk children face when these risk factors are present.

“Victim advocates, mental and behavioral health professionals, primary care and specialty healthcare providers such as psychiatrists and pediatricians, law enforcement, and other stakeholders should be aware of these risk factors to properly create a safety plan, “says researcher Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, MD, MPH, PhD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and core faculty of HIPRC at the University of Washington.

In order to examine screening protocols and safety planning tools, researchers on this study say future research efforts should focus on getting a better understanding of the interactions between these agencies and victims and their children. This study adds greater understanding of child death within the context of IPH and can help direct prevention efforts.

Other authors on this work include, Avanti Adhia, ScD, Department of Pediatrics with the University of Washington School of Medicine, Caitlin A. Moe, MS, Department of Epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health, Mary A. Kernic, PhD, MPH, Department of Epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health, Madeline Schiller, Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center at the University of Washington, Andrew Bowen, Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center at the University of Washington, and Frederick Rivara, MD, MPH, Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program (FIPRP) Director and Department of Pediatrics with the University of Washington School of Medicine.

VHL, FPR and ARR are supported by the FACTS (Firearm-safety Among Children & Teens) Consortium, funded by the National Institutes of Health within the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD, 1R24HD087149). AA is also supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (5T32HD057822-09).

For resources for survivors of domestic violence, visit the National Violence Domestic Hotline online, or call 1.800.799.SAFE (7233).