Child victims physically harmed in intimate partner violence incidents are understudied. The U.S. National Violent Death Reporting System abstractors can identify intimate partner violence–related child homicides in part through descriptive narratives from coroner/medical examiner and law enforcement reports. This study characterizes these homicides and assesses how well the coded and narrative data within the National Violent Death Reporting System align in identifying intimate partner violence–related child homicides.
This study examines homicides of children ages 2–14 years from 16 states for 2005–2014. An existing variable purportedly indicates intimate partner violence–related child homicides where the perpetrator also kills or attempts to kill the intimate partner (Type 1) or intimate partner conflict (e.g., divorce, separation, custody) precedes the homicide (Type 2). The authors read all narratives in 2018 to assess whether the death was intimate partner violence–related and compared this classification to that coded by the National Violent Death Reporting System abstractor.
Of 1,386 child homicide victims, 144 (10.4%) were coded in the National Violent Death Reporting System as intimate partner violence–related. However, from the narratives, an additional 138 were classified as intimate partner violence–related, identifying a total of 280 (20.2%) victims. Of the 280 victims, 54.3% were killed in Type 1 incidents. Compared with other perpetrators of child homicides, intimate partner violence–related perpetrators were more likely to be white, use a firearm, and die by suicide. Type 2 incidents were more likely than Type 1 to be homicide–suicides.
The National Violent Death Reporting System currently understates intimate partner violence–related child homicide cases. Many cases involve immediate intimate partner conflict, suggesting the need for services to help people cope before conflicts lead to deadly incidents. Primary prevention of intimate partner violence may have survival benefits for children.