Victim, perpetrator, family, and incident characteristics of 32 infant maltreatment deaths in the United States Air Force

Albert L. Brewster, John P. Nelson, Kent Hymel, Donald R. Colby, D. R. Lucas, Thomas R. McCanne, Joel S. Milner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Objective: The aim of the present study was to extend the previous number of variables used to describe infanticide and identify factors that might be used to prevent infanticide. Method: Using a multidisciplinary approach, victim, perpetrator, family, and incident variables in 32 cases of infanticide were identified and examined. Available investigative, birth, medical, autopsy, and Air Force Family Advocacy Program records concerning substantiated cases of infanticide due to family maltreatment occurring in the United States Air Force from 1989 through 1995 were independently reviewed for 58 criteria. Interrater reliability was 96%. Results: Victim - The mean age of the infant-victim was 4.9 months old. Although 35% of physicians' reports about the infant-victim noted colic, only 10% of the mothers and 13% of the parent-perpetrators reported their infants as being colicky. Fifty-five percent of the infant-victims had physical trauma before the fatal incident, indicating physical abuse. At death age, the infants' weights and lengths were smaller (36th and 39th percentile, respectively) in comparison to normal infants the same age. Perpetrator - The caretaker- perpetrator had a history of abuse in childhood (23%), was male (84%), the biological father of the victim (77%), and a first-time parent (54%). Family: The infant-victim families were composed of young (mother = 23.3 years old; father = 24.3 years old), married (97%) parents with one or two children (M = 1.6). Incident: The incident had the infant-victim crying (58%) and alone with the caretaker-perpetrator (86%) on the weekend (47%) at around noon in the home (71%). Conclusions: The findings indicate several factors related to infanticide. Awareness of these factors may help in the prevention of infanticide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-101
Number of pages11
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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