‘Life Chances’, Mortality and Morbidity
Delinquency and Life Expectancies
Robert Whiston, circa 1997
We are, by now, acclimatised to hearing the traditional family and marriage chastised and ridiculed as inherently problematical and fatally flawed. Often, in the same breath, the joys and advantages of the alternative family unit are extolled. The new mother/child family unit is lauded as ushering in a new dawn of women’s freedom. Rarely, if ever, are the fatal flaws in the “alternative family unit” publicised.
Society today endlessly debates the personal rights and freedoms of the individual. Journalists, TV chat show hosts and radio interviewers, often female, give us wall-to-wall coverage and speak of the tremendous changes wrought in the modern age by women’s liberation begun 30 years ago. But absolutely no one talks about who pays the prices for these changes – children.
No one discusses children’s “life chances”, their life expectancy, mortality, morbidity and or delinquency – all of which are getting worse. In fact, the consensus view is that there is no price that need be paid for this freedom and liberation and that the entire process is painless.
We rightly look back with horror to the appalling condition of the urban poor in the Victorian and Edwardian periods. We are aghast at the grinding poverty and filth in the urban slums in the 1930s. But we are fast setting a course to return there. For there are consequences, sometimes unintended, when change occurs and neither form can be wished away.
What everyone who is wrapped up in the ethereal debate about personal rights and freedoms forgets is ‘outcomes’. Outcomes are not results after a process, e.g. file for divorce and it being granted, or a customer satisfaction index, e.g. “Did you find the divorce went smoothly ?” No, outcomes are the objective measure of what happens to a child in society 10 or 15 years after, in this example, the divorce court decision. Outcomes are objective (unlike a satisfaction index) and can therefore be measured by academic observation and plotted against statistical norms.
The public face of the lone parent debate has centred mainly on admonishing wayward girls, slackening morals, the cost of such wayward behaviour and how out of touch such critics are with modern reality. But there is another deeper debate set out in these papers, one that fixes our future, for good or ill.
We’re not told that the two-parent family actually works very well and is a proven cost-effective system. In purely economic, production and Utilitarian terms it delivers goods of uniformly consistent high quality at “prices” that cannot be matched. Meanwhile the single-parent-family persistently delivers damaged goods of doubtful reliability, dubious quality and, bearing in mind the hidden subsidies, at way above “market price”.
Indignant outrage and denial is visited upon anyone that dares challenge the ‘one-parent-is-best’ scenario. Pointing out their shortcomings brings calumny down on the heretics who question the “received wisdom”. Why, it must be asked, if lone parent families are so superior, should any challenge be met with such rapid and vehement hostility ? And why do these “father exclusive” family units appear to need so much money to make them viable ?
In the last 12 years, governments, Conservative and Labour, appear to have become first enthralled and then obsessed by the activist’s new model of the family unit.
In 1995, with the Family Law Bill and the prospect of an even freer divorce regime just around the corner, the buzz word which was high on the agenda of the chattering classes, was the “feminisation” of marriage. Marriage, we were solemnly told, would not survive into the 21st century unless radical changes were made to make it more attractive to women. The concept of making it attractive to men was never mentioned. Indeed, when this proposal was raised at one seminar a deathly silence descended.
This was followed a few years later by the notion of the “feminisation of the family”. This, it was said, was more attuned to women’s aspirations of liberty and enhance her freedom to choose. The reality that this concept could only be purchased with children as the price tag, was totally overlooked – together with any consideration of what men might want or hope for from family life.
One is forced to the inevitable conclusion that scant regard is given to any benefit children or men might derive from such a suggested family unit. It also suggests that those advocating single parenthood as being as good, if not better, than the two parent family woman, have never actually cared for children. Such advocates see a single mother as somehow able to have more time to spend with her children – yet have more time to herself – and yet also pursue a career !
The family, based on the marriage of two parents, has always been the recognised method of “socialising” the next generation. Advocates of the “infinite variety of new family forms” maintain that children of lone parents and of re-married parents do as well as those children from intact two parent families. They maintain that only nostalgic investment in traditional families obstructs the alternatives becoming “fully functional” and successful 
However, research refutes this claim and clearly demonstrates that children from non-traditional family backgrounds suffer almost every imaginable disadvantage and pathology (Appendix A).
Children brought up without a father are unlikely reach or surpass their biological father’s social class, status or income  (see Paper 6).
Even when this is sceptically half accepted by the lone parent lobbyists they ascribe the differences in ‘outcomes’ to differentials in family incomes. The implied suggestion is that the cure is for the State to pay higher wages, i.e. Social Security benefits. If only this were done, it is argued, the differences seen in lone parent families would disappear overnight. 
Unfortunately, this isn’t true, either. At first sight there does appear to be some merit in this argument (Appendix B). However, the higher incidence of abuse shown id the table for low income families is more a product of lone parenthood where incomes are lower. Married families tend to have higher incomes. In separate studies those married families who do have very low incomes have low abuse rates comparable with high income families.
In studies where family incomes have been statistically ‘controlled for’, it simply doesn’t happen. In separate studies comparing ‘actual’ like incomes, e.g. where both the man and women earn say £20,000 pa, the discrepancies in child development are still pronounced. 
The case falls further apart at the other end of the spectrum, i.e. when low income families are analysed. If low income really is the main disadvantage suffered by children of lone parents and the prime reason for their school underachievement and delinquency, then why are those traits all but absent in children from the very poorest married two parent households ? The effect of lack of money should hold true for children of the very poorest married couples – but it doesn’t.  No, the predicator is the presence or absence of a father or ‘father figure’.
The fragility and underachievement of children from non-traditional families is curious in it’s comprehensiveness. It is not only children of unmarried mothers who fail to reach expected standards but all family groupings where there is no father present, e.g. divorced and separated mothers. This group includes divorced and separated mothers with children from before their divorce as well as those women who conceive additional children after their divorce (extra-marital conceptions) where there is no permanent father in the household. In particular, those children from “care homes” are severely disadvantaged. Clearly something other than monetary factors are at work here. The only exception to this pattern is children of widows, where children have known both mother and father.
Children from non-traditional families have higher mortality rates (die earlier and more frequently) and significantly higher morbidity rates (suffer from depression, melancholy etc). Again, apologists claim that this is due to poverty and would be rectified if lone parents received greater incomes. But direct studies in the US disprove this. 
Conclusions from UK statistics show incomes levels don’t necessarily affect outcomes. 
But what is true is that marital status heavily determines a family’s income level (see Paper 4, Appendix A). In the UK, the infant mortality rate for babies born out-of-wedlock is 80% higher compared to those born to married women.  The National Child Development Study found that 52 out of 1,000 children born to unmarried women were likely to die by the age of 7 years.
This compares with only 36 per 1,000 for those with fathers (again allowing for age, social class and education. The ratio of 36:52 per 1,000 indicates a difference factor of 69%.
Child deaths recorded by the US statistical service also confirms the same high incidence of deaths among young children and babies born out-of-wedlock (see Appendices C and D).
Some child deaths will be due to neglect or physical abuse, but some will be homicides. However, these too are characterised by the marital status of the mother, and the age of the victim. Both American and British figures confirm that in the under 20 year old category child and infant deaths are high (see Appendix D).
In recent years the Department of Health has received on average about 120 notifications of child deaths or incidents of serious harm to children involving potential major public concern. These numbers include notifications of the death from any cause of any child being looked after by a local authority or of any child who dies in residential care. By no means all of these 120 or so notifications result in an Area Child Protection Committee case review. Currently the Department receives on average one Section 8/ACPC case review each week. The actual number of child deaths per year is greater than Dept of Health records might indicate but they do at least underscore the vulnerably of the very young, Fig 14, and the relationship with the perpetrator, Fig 15.
Such results, abuse and neglect, are not a British or a post World War II phenomena. Examination of earlier records show that even the absence of a permanent father can have profound effects. Records from the 19th century show that in East Anglia child mortality among two parent families, where the father was away at sea for long periods, were double the rate of those with fathers based onshore. 
This mortality pattern is repeated in Jamaica (a country with a high incidence father absence) and many other countries, irrespective of their economic development. There is a clear gradient in mortality prospects depending upon the marital status of the women and the frequency of her “visiting” friend, i.e. casual boyfriend or partner.
A study in Finland which compensated for smoking, age, education and other factors, found that perinatal deaths, low birth rate, and premature births are far more common among single mothers than married mothers.  Indeed, it is of more than passing interest to note the average birth weight in Britain has actually declined from the post war highs.
Among the children of South American Indians 43% of children raised by a mother and stepfather died before their 15th birthday compared with only 19% raised by both their natural parents. This outcome, is consistently found in studies in Europe, the US and Canada, where surveys also show a heightened incidence of child abuse and neglect.  (Appendix E)
In the UK the present death rate for children of lone parents is 42% worse than for any other group in Social Class V. This social class covers the lowest decile (i.e. 10%) of incomes. It includes not just lone parents but the unemployed two parent families. Therefore, the very poorest of all families, where one might expect mortality to be comparatively high but uniform displays lone parents as the highest risk to children group. 
A report by the United Nations into child mortality among the world’s richer nations found that the USA, nominally the richest, had the worst record.
ONS Mortality Statistics show that there were 386 child deaths from accidents and adverse effects in England and Wales in 1997 (basis E800-E949). Corresponding figures for 1998 and 1999 were 338 and 347 deaths respectively. These figures contrast markedly with those for the early 1990s when over 500 deaths per year were reported.
In the three year period 1997-1999, the leading causes of unintentional injury deaths in childhood were motor vehicle traffic accidents (46%), with pedestrian deaths accounting for half of these.
Other leading causes of death included suffocation and foreign bodies (14%), fire and flames (9%), drowning and submersion (9%), falls (5%) and poisoning (3%).
For all injury types boys were twice as likely to die from an unintentional injury compared with girls. Young children are particularly vulnerable for some types of injury, for example 70% of children who died in house fires were aged under five years.
Pre-school children are more likely to die from an injury in the home environment and school-aged children are most likely to die in the road environment.
There is a cluster of factors relating to social deprivation associated with the non-use of smoke alarms. The absence of a smoke alarm is a significant risk factor for fatal house fires. Roberts, in a study of deaths of children in house fires, found that the greatest risk was for those living in the poorest council housing and in temporary accommodation. Single parent families were at significantly increased risk (Roberts 1995). The under-reporting of fatal child abuse has also been noted by researchers for a long time (Wilczynski, 1994; Creighton, 2001), particularly where the cause of death is uncertain as in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (Hobbs et al., 1995). Mis-categorisation presents a real problem and may mask a deeper crisis. Information on child homicide is equally uncertain (Browne and Lynch, 1995; Pritchard 1996); hence the continued use of the widely quoted statistic ‘on average, between 1 to 2 children each week die as a result of abuse or neglect’ (NSPCC, 2001).
The contribution a father makes to his child’s life expectancy, mortality and morbidity is palpable. evident but is invariably overlooked. It is not simply a matter of him complementing, or supplementing, any deficit on behalf of his wife’s efforts. His role goes deeper and is more profound. It is as crucial for daughters as it is for sons.
Giving attention to children, with another adult sensitively monitoring provides feedback to both parents, acts as a brake to any abuse and prompts loving care and attention. 
Because children of lone parents live in an environment where no such feedbackexists, a ‘closed loop’ scenario is created. This applies equally to never-married and divorced mothers.
Consequently, should a parent become inadvertently excessive, there is no restraining influence present to moderate. This leaves the door open to parental abuse of the child, and later, the child’s anti-social behaviour to others, including its mother. It is now becoming a more convincing postulation that anti-social behaviour, including domestic violence is a learned trait from the above scenario.
Despite this, normal two parent families are routinely asked to justify themselves solely in bald and irrelevant terms. Notions of special tax concessions to buttress marriage and parenthood are brushed aside by mindsets that ignore profound cultural considerations and which sideline the role of structure and stability for a child. In its place there is a climate which declares as preference for pleasure in the name of personal freedom.  The “feminisation” of both marriage and family life, it is argued, will make both more appealing to women (cf. Ms. Ceridwen Roberts, Family Law Seminar, Family Policy Study Centre, sponsored by LCD, April 1996). Feminisation, however, precludes any input from men or fathers. In fact, it is shorthand for the fashionable “non-judgemental” creed currently being pursued in all matters, social and divorce, by very illiberal reformers.
One of the most influential study to date on criminal careers, the Cambridge Study of Delinquent Development, showed delinquents were not only more likely to be illegitimate, but that the risk of delinquency doubled for children of divorced couples. 
In a separate longitudinal study, boys who had been through divorce when they were 10 years old were more likely to be anti-social – and the rate increased where a stepfather was present in the new family structure. 
The main longitudinal study in the UK and the one most frequently referred to for child outcomes, the National Child Development Study, shows that while 8% of boys from two parent families appeared before the courts (at some time in their lives), the figure was 16% for children of lone mothers and 19% with boys with stepfathers. Those boys that had dealings with the police and Probation Service were 9%, 17% and 20% for two parent families, lone mothers and stepfathers respectively. 
The overwhelming weight of evidence suggest that children who grow up with both original parents enjoy better health, live longer, are more likely to be employed, are less delinquent, have greater intellectual powers, do better at school and college, have less behavioural and emotional problems, are less likely to leave home early, less likely to take drugs, less likely to break the law, and less likely to become pregnant at an early age.
David Paponoe, a sociologist, states, “In three decades of work, I know of few other bodies of data in which the weight of evidence is so decisively one sided on the issue”. 
For his part Robert Sampson has been able to demonstrate that a city’s divorce rate was a better predictor of robbery rates, than it’s arrest or sentencing measures.  The comparison with fatherless families and domestic violence is too obvious to miss.
But despite all this, published findings showing the correlation between family structure and child success are usually left unpublicised and the impact on children’s well-being played down to the point of suppression.
Only those instances where the children’s backgrounds are different or where ambiguities can be attributed to income and economic factors, are picked up and broadcast by writers and politicians such as Anna Coote, Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt.  They believe that lone parenthood in itself doesn’t contribute to delinquency or underachievement etc. This would probably be true if all variables are removed and social forces totally eradicated, but that is a very unrealistic scenario. Analysis invariably shows these predisposed views rely upon feminist surveys undertaken by colleagues or studies that are small in sample size. They never approach sample sizes of tens of thousand or even one million as mentioned in Appendix A. In short, these ideologues are, in the name of their personal ideology, effectively selling a generation short.
Pressure groups, more interested in special pleadings than genuine enquiry, often cite the exception rather than the rule. For instance, in the Home Office report of 1985 on Parental Supervision and Delinquency found no difference in delinquency between one and two parent families. 
But that report omitted to control for family structure, family economic difficulties, stress induced by large families and it also failed to distinguish between widowhood and lone mothers. It never addressed whether in the last 5 or 10 years there had been any family re-structuring and it also failed to control for ‘rough’ (fatherless) neighbourhoods.
What it did find was a positive link between delinquency and the levels of involvement between fathers and teenagers.
Commentators “with an agenda” too often dismiss findings on the grounds that they do not hold true in 100% of cases. But this is asking for an impossible level of level of proof. 
Studies are, by their very nature, simple probabilities. Two, three or even four groups will, like converging searchlights on a screen, have overlapping areas for any given population. But this in no way detracts from the average of the finding for those groups. No one expects, for instance, that a 100% of smokers will die of lung cancer and that 100% of non-smokers will not. But we are able to state that smoking is injurious to health. Being drunk in charge of a car doesn’t mean you’re bound to have a car crash but what you are is more likely to have a road accident and to be a danger to yourself and others.
Similarly, if the pools of light from several searchlights represent the findings derived from surveys of say, married couples, lone parenthood and criminality, then sensible deductions can be made even if the areas of light don’t wholly converge.
Raising a child is a difficult enough endeavour under any circumstances, but raising one alone poses all manner of problems. Every stage of a child’s development has its problems, but perhaps the most difficult time for parent and child are the adolescent years when parental power is challenged. In a two-parent family the two parents can “gang up” on the adolescent to preserve order and family discipline.
In this, lone mothers are distinctly disadvantaged, and in three additional ways can jeopardise the welfare of their children (it is also here that institutional “care homes” may be found wanting).
Firstly, they are more susceptible to high stress levels, which are only further heightened by Gov’t led pressures to find employment (re: Harriet Harman’s work initiatives).
Secondly, single and divorced women have 5 times more depressive and psychiatric illness than married women, and far more than men. 
Thirdly, they are more likely to be physically ill, consult their GP regularly, be admitted to hospital and are 8 times more likely to be entering mental hospitals for psychiatric treatment and assessments. 
Divorce is known to shorten life expectancy and, when coupled with an emerging research indicating a shorter life span for working women, this compares poorly with married women’s life expectancy. 
The probability of suicides, attempted suicide and para-suicides by both lone parents and the children of lone parents (boys and girls) increase accordingly.
Suicide rates for divorced and children of the divorced in Nordic countries is higher despite greater Social Service provision and advanced Welfare programmes.  For many years those Nordic countries have had a regime of fewer marriages and higher levels of cohabitation that we in Britain are only now beginning to see (Appendix E).
The morbidity and psychiatric diseases outlined in Appendices A and C include the higher tendency to suicide among the children of single mother households. A graph depicting suicides among teenagers is shown in Appendix F. The ONS, who compiled the figures, did not include how many were from lone parent households. It will no doubt take several years for the ONS to disaggregate suicide figures into lone parent and non-lone parent families.
This point is particularly worth recalling when advocates call for more state-sponsored intervention by Social Services as the solution to our social ills.
E N D
Mortality, severe morbidity, and injury in children living with single parents in Sweden: a population-based study
Study Says Broken Homes Harm Kids More (Summary)
Gunilla Ringbäck Weitoft, Anders Hjern, Bengt Haglund, Måns Rosén
Centre for Epidemiology, National Board of Health and Welfare, Stockholm, Sweden – G R Weitoft BA, A Hjern MD, B Haglund DMSc, M Rosén PhD;
Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University, Sweden – G R Weitoft, M Rosén;
Department of Clinical Sciences, HuddingeUniversityHospital, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden – A Hjern
Our findings in almost a million children and adolescents showed increased risks of psychiatric disease, suicide or suicide attempt, injury and addiction in children in single-parent households compared with those in two-parent households. Boys in single-parent families had higher risks than girls for psychiatric disease and drug-related disease, and they also had a raised risk of all-cause mortality.
Investigators from early child-psychiatric studies focused mainly on the process of divorce, suggested that the effect of divorce on children could be understood in terms of a crisis model, in which short-term effects related to transition were common, but long-lasting effects were rare. Long-term effects were usually dependent on other stress factors.13 Our findings, however, are consistent with those of more recent studies,5,14-16 in which divorce and living in a single-parent household were shown to have long-term effects.
Much of the raised risks recorded in children living with only one parent in our analyses can be accounted for by differences in socioeconomic circumstances, a finding much the same as those in previous studies.1,5,14,25-26 Parental economic distress, in general followed by inconsistent parental discipline, was associated with behavioural problems such as delinquency and drug misuse among children.27 Lipman28 used the same method in her analysis of Canadian data–i.e., regression analysis with adjustments for other factors that could contribute to child outcome–and found that inclusion of socio-demographic variables such as household income, lessened the increase in risk. In our study, the main explanation for the increase in risk was lack of household resources, as indicated by receipt of social-welfare benefit and housing situation. These factors seemed to serve as intermediate paths through which single parenthood affects children’s health and wellbeing. Somewhat smaller contributions were made by the factors we assumed to occur before the existing family situation (parental age, socioeconomic group, residence, country of birth, addiction and mental illness in parents). Of these factors, socioeconomic group played the biggest part, while a very small part of the raised risk can be accounted for by addiction and mental illness, both of which were more frequent in single parents than in those with a partner. Such factors have an important effect on interaction patterns between parents and children, and there could also be a genetic component involved.
Significant risk increases remained unaccounted for even in our fully adjusted model. Factors such as parental absence, lack of social support, and family conflict could have been important in accounting for these increases. In one-parent households the adult takes on many different roles, including that of being the only breadwinner, which constrains attention, help, and supervision of the child. The loss of one parent as a role model in the home could also be important, especially for boys who grow up with a single mother.29,30 Our results do not, however, lend support to the view that the sex of the custodial parent or child affects the difference in risk. The sons of single parents had worse outcomes than girls only in psychiatric and drug-related disease.
When divorce is the cause of the family breakdown, this process is usually preceded by family conflict, which in many cases continues well beyond actual separation. Hostility between the parents creates an aversive home environment in which children become stressed, unhappy, and insecure. The results of several studies1,7,24 have suggested that children are better off in a single-parent family with a low level of conflict than in an intact family with a high level of conflict.
The main strengths of this register-based study lie in its coverage of the whole population of a country and the potential such analysis offers to adopt a longitudinal approach with a low dropout rate. Use of deaths and hospital-discharge records means that our health measure is not biased by self-reporting, and can be expected to cover most serious morbidity outcomes. However, a diagnosis on a hospital record does not include any information about severity of disease or injury. If children of single parents are more likely to be admitted for less serious conditions, their relative risks will be overestimated. Such an effect is possible, since the decision to admit a child could be affected by the doctor’s judgment of the parent or parents’ capability of taking care of their child at home. Single parents could be more inclined to seek hospital care. Analyses from the UK31 showed higher rates of consultations of general practitioners for children in households with one adult, which could reflect the insecurity of a single adult with no opportunity to share responsibility for a sick child. Whether such effects are applicable to the outcomes of our study is questionable, with the exception of falls and cases of poisoning. However, the risk of death from fall or poisoning was, at least for boys, higher than that of being admitted for the same reason.
In the registers we used, any child in a single-parent household was recorded as living with just one parent, usually the mother. We could not distinguish shared custody from other forms of arrangements, despite the fact that shared custody has become more frequent. To have knowledge about the non-custodial parent’s living-conditions would have been valuable, especially for psychiatric illness and substance misuse. However, the census gives information only about adults in the household in which the child is registered. Psychiatric disease and addiction in the parents of children in single-parent families is probably underestimated, and consequently, adjustments for such factors cannot attenuate the risk increases in an optimum way.
Another weakness is a lack of information about when in childhood an eventual parental divorce took place, which made it impossible to assess risks in relation to length of time since parental separation. We defined long-term exposure as having been living with the same single parent or the same two parents for at least 5 years; however, we do not know if the situation applies continuously over the whole period.
The personal financial disadvantages of being a single parent vary greatly between different societies in developed countries, with social policy an important determinant.32,33 From an international perspective, the socioeconomic situation of a single parent in Sweden is quite favourable, mainly because of the opportunities available for state-subsidised day-care and financial support. In a comparison of self-perceived health between single mothers and mothers with partners in Britain and Sweden, the increased relative risk for single mothers was the same in both countries, despite a more favourable social policy in Sweden.32 However, different mechanisms seem to be at work in the two countries. One hypothesis is that single mothers in Sweden are affected more by less time than by less money.32 Swedish family and employment policies do not distinguish between single parents and working parents, and do not recognise the special needs of the single parents as the only family breadwinners and carer. If everyday life is characterised by psychosocial stress and loss of control, this surely will have an injurious effect on children’s wellbeing. Improving prerequisites for combining being a single parent with working life is a challenging task.
Accordingly, preventive efforts aimed at the risk behaviours of children and young people would be especially desirable. Family circumstances can be improved in various ways, so that children gain access to environments outside the family–through social-policy measures, maternal and child health care, and preschool, school, and leisure programmes.
Poverty / Low Incomes and Abuse
Fig. C. Levels of abuse by types and family income – as a cause of abuse
|Table 5-2, Page 5-11, NIS-3, The Third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, Incidence Rates per 1,000 Children for Maltreatment under the Endangerment Standard in the NIS-3 (1993) for Different Levels of Family Income|
|Severity of Injury|
Where shared parenting is allowed there is a substantial evidence to show a decline in convictions of child abuse, neglect, child destruction and other forms of maltreatment or delinquency that are directly detrimental to the child.
Newborns Face Highest Murder Risk
Most infant victims born outside of hospitals, study finds
In the United States, you are 10 times more likely to die by homicide — to be murdered — on the day you are born than at any other time during your life, according to a study just released by the [US] Center of Disease Control (CDC).
Even if you make through your first day, you still risk a better chance of being murdered during your first year of life than in any other year of childhood before you turn 17, according to the CDC.
In their analysis of the total 3,312 infant homicides reported between 1989 – 1998, CDC found homicide to be the 15th leading cause of infant death in the United States, with the most homicides occurring during the first four months of life.
Among homicides during the first week of life, 82.6 percent occurred on the day of birth, 9.2 percent on the second day, and 8.2 percent during the remainder of the week. Overall, 243 (7.3 percent) of all infant homicides occurred on the day of birth. Homicide rates on the first day of life are at least ten times greater than in later times of life, according to the report.
Among infants murdered on their day of birth, 89 percent were not born in a hospital, and 89 percent of known perpetrators were women, usually the mother. Additionally, CDC reports that mothers who kill their infants are more likely to be adolescents and have a history of mental illness.
After the first week of life, a second peak homicide risk period occurs during the 8th week and may, says the CDC, reflect the peak in the daily duration of crying among normal infants between 6 and 8 weeks of age.
As disturbing as these findings may be, CDC concluded that incidents of infant homicide are probably under-reported, with many more murders being incorrectly diagnosed as having resulted from unintentional injuries or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
CDC’s findings are backed up in a 1998 study by the National Institutes of Health finding homicide to be the leading cause infant death due to injury.
To reduce the number of infant homicides on the day of birth, CDC suggest development of programs to prevent out-of-hospital births, especially among high-risk mothers. CDC further suggests home visitation and parenting programs, especially those beginning during pregnancy, might help reduce child abuse during later periods of infancy.
Summary Findings: Homicide Risk Among Infants
- Homicide is the 15th leading cause of infant death in the United States. The risk of homicide is greater in infancy than in any other year of childhood before age 17.
- Infants are at greatest risk for homicide during the first week of infancy and the first day of life.
- Among homicides during the first week of life, 82.6% occurred on the day of birth.
- The homicide rate on the first day of life was more than ten times greater than the rate during any other time of life.
- Among homicides on the first day of life, previous work has shown that 95% of victims are not born in a hospital.
- The second highest peak in risk for infant homicide occurs during the eighth week of life and may be due to a caregiver’s reaction to an infant’s persistent crying. Infant crying duration peaks at six to eight weeks of age.
- Among homicides during the first week of life, 89% of perpetrators are female, usually the mother. Mothers who kill their infants are more likely to be adolescents and have a history of mental illness.
The report was published in CDC’s ‘Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report’.
Fig. D shows the number of child homicides in Britain by age of victim as displayed in Table 4.4 of Criminal Statistics collected by the Home Office.
Fig E shows the number of infants and children murdered in the US by sex of perpetrator, i.e. mothers fathers and “others” – this UK authorities do not provide this degree of analysis. However, the category ‘fathers’ and ‘others’ both in the US and UK should be viewed with caution as statistical sources commonly include – because of more casual serial relationships – both current boyfriend and cohabitee of the single mother as nominally the child’s father. Nonetheless, even given this shortcoming the number of homicides fathers barely registers.
Perpetrators’ Relationship to Child Victims (USA)
Fig. G. Perpetrator Relationship to Victims (USA)
Appendix F (1)
England & Wales
Appendix F (2)
Teenage Suicide, USA
America – percentages, source : Dept of Health and Human Resources, “Vital Statistics of the United States” Vol2 part A, “Mortality” page 51, Table 1 – 9, Death. Rates for 72 selected causes by 5 year age groups and sex. US 1988. actual numbers by age.
Appendix F (3)
Suicide by Marital Status
 Hewitt & Leach, ‘Social Justice, Children and Families’, 1993.
 OPCS. Social Trends, Population Trends, et al.
 McLanahan, ‘The Consequences of Single Parenthood for Subsequent Generations’. 1988.
 Dawson, ‘Family Structure and Children’s Health: United States’, 1988, Series 10:178. Pilling, Escape from Disadvantage, London. Falmer
 Mean Overall Behavioural Problems score per child aged 5-17 by family type and selected demographic and social characteristics: United States 1988.
 Morgan. P. ‘Farewell to the Family ?’. IEA, p 160. (see also Dawsonat 4 above).
 Ibid (see also DSS Social Security Statistics 1996)
 Crellin, Pringle & West, Born illegitimate. Dec 1988
 Crellin, Pringle & West, Born illegitimate. Dec 1988
 Dubow & Lester, Adjustment of Children Born to Teenage Mothers: the Contribution of Risk and Protective Factors Journal of Marriage and Family Vol. 52. Lummis, The Historical Dimensions to Fatherhood: a Case Study 1890-1914, in, The Father Figure. Tavistock, 1982.
 Wright, Sexual Unions an Infant Mortality in Jamaica. Unpublished manuscript. University of Glasgow, 1994.
 Manderbacka, Marital status as a Predictor of Perinatal Outcomes in Finland, 1992.
 Daly & Wilson, Body and Mind: Darwinism and the Human Sciences. LSE. 1993
 Dawson, Family Structure and Children’s Health: United States 1988, Series 10:178.Pilling, Escape from Disadvantage, London. Falmer Press. 1990 Judge & Benzeval, Health Inequalities: New Concerns About Children of Single Mothers. BMA 1993
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 Capaldi & Patterson, ‘Relations in Parental Transitions to Boy’s Adjustment problems in a Linear Hypothesis’, ii) Mothers at Risk for Transitions and Unskilled Parenting. Developmental Psychology, Vol. 27, 1991, pp 489.
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 Popone D. quoted by Whitehead in ‘Divorce and the Kids: the Evidence’. 1994.
 Robert Sampson, ‘Urban Black Violence: The Effect of Male Joblessness and Family Disruption’, 1987.
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 Riley & Shaw, ‘Parental Supervision and Juvenile Delinquency’. Home Office No 83, 1985.
 Dominian, ‘Marital Breakdown and the Health of the Nation’, One Plus One, 1991. McLanahan & Booth, Mother-only Families: Problems, Prospects and politics. 1989
 See also “Deaths: Final Data for 1996” by Kimberley D. Peters; Kenneth D. Kochanek, M.A.; and Sherry L. Murphy, Division of Vital Statistics Volume 47, Number 9. USA. November 10, 1998
 Dominian, ‘Marital Breakdown and the Health of the Nation’, One Plus One 1991
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 Stack. S. ‘The Impact of Divorce on Suicide in Norway’, 1951-1980. Journal of Marriage and the Family. 1989. The Effect of Suicide in Denmark 1961-1980. The Sociological Quarterly. 1986.