New Studies Examine Violent Deaths, Child Maltreatment

Two studies released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in April find that many people who die violently experience intimate partner violence and/or relationship problems beforehand, and tens of thousand of newborns and infants experience abuse or neglect.

Partner Violence Precedes Many Homicides

Nearly one in five homicides (19 percent) is precipitated by intimate partner violence, according to a new report from the CDC’s National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS). Fifty-two percent of female homicides, and nine percent of male homicides, are precipitated by intimate partner violence. In addition, 32 percent of suicides are precipitated by a problem with an intimate partner.

The new study provides a detailed analysis of 2005 data from 16 states on all types of violent death, as well as information about the circumstances surrounding these deaths. It finds that there are some 50,000 violent deaths in the United States each year. Most of those deaths are suicides (more than 56 percent), while nearly 30 percent are homicides and deaths involving legal interventions, and another 13 percent are of undetermined intent.

Overall, men are more likely than women to die violently, and American Indians/Alaska Natives and African Americans have higher rates of violent death than whites and Hispanics. The rate of violent death is highest for people age 20 to 24, and the home is the most common location for all types of violent death.

There were about 200 violent incidents in which a homicide was followed by the suicide of the suspect in the 16 states in 2005. In those cases, 168 of the 225 murder victims were female, and 180 of the suspects who committed homicide and then suicide were male. The highest percentage of both homicide and suicide victims in these cases were age 35 to 44.

The report says that programs designed to enhance social problem-solving and coping skills, and skills dealing with stressful life events, have potential to reduce violence since relationship problems and intimate partner violence are precipitating factors in many types of violent death. It also recommends prevention programs aimed at addressing mental health problems and increasing education about the warning signs for violence.

The CDC’s NVDRS is a comprehensive reporting system that collects and centralizes data on violent deaths from death certificates, coroner/medical examiner reports, and law enforcement reports. The states participating in the study are Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Wisconsin, and Virginia. The National Violence Prevention Network is working to expand it to every state.

Child Abuse and Neglect

In 2006, 91,278 infants under a year old experienced nonfatal abuse or neglect, including nearly 30,000 who experienced maltreatment in their first week of life. According to “Nonfatal Maltreatment of Infants,” 86 percent of the abuse and neglect cases involving the 29,881 newborns were reported to child protective services by professionals, most often medical staff or social service workers.

That same year, state and local child protective service workers substantiated that 905,000 children (under age 18) were victims of abuse or neglect.

“The concentration of reports of neglect in the first few days of life, and the preponderance of reports from medical professionals during the same period, suggest that neglect was often identified at birth,” it notes. “One hypothesis for the concentration of maltreatment and neglect reports in the first few days of life is that the majority of reports resulted from maternal or newborn drug tests.” Prenatal substance abuse test results are routinely reported to child protective service agencies as neglect. Many women, and pregnant women in particular, struggle to find drug treatment programs that will serve them.

“Establishing safe, stable, and nurturing relationships between children and adults is the vaccine against child abuse and neglect,” National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Director Ileana Arias, PhD said during an audio news conference. “We must support programs that inform and provide support for parents, families, and health professionals on how to ensure protected and nurturing environments for children.” She said maltreatment is the third leading cause of death for children under age one in this country.

Growing up in a violent home may be a terrifying and traumatic experience that can affect every aspect of a child’s life, growth, and development. Children who suffer from abuse and neglect are often at risk for poor health outcomes and may be more likely than other children to engage in risky behaviors during adolescence and adulthood.

“Nonfatal Maltreatment of Infants” defines physical abuse to include beating, kicking, biting, burning and shaking, and neglect to include abandonment, maternal drug use or failing to meet basic needs like housing, food, clothing and access to medical care.

The CDC and the Administration for Children and Families analyzed data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), which has been collecting annual data since 1993. The report is the first published national analysis of substantiated nonfatal maltreatment of infants using NCANDS data. Researchers were able to examine data from 45 states.

The CDC’s NVDRS findings were reported in the April 11 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Surveillance Summaries. To read the report, visit www.cdc.gov/MMWR/preview/mmwrhtml/ss5703a1.htm. “Nonfatal Maltreatment of Infants” is in the April 4 edition of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. To read the entire article, visit www.cdc.gov/mmwR/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5713a2.htm.

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