Families of Homicide Victims: A Review and Recommendations for Current Research and Practice

Mark D. Reed, Georgia State University
Brenda Sims Blackwell, Georgia State University

Homicide plagues our American cities and costs to victims' families and society are tremendous. In 1999, homicide was ranked as the fourteenth leading cause of death (Hoyert, Arias, Smith, Murphy, & Kochanek, 2001) and was the leading cause of death among black males aged 15 to 34 in the United States (Anderson, 2001). In a recent National Institute of Justice report, homicide is estimated to cost $67.6 billion annually in costs to medical and criminal justice systems and victims' families (Miller, Cohen, & Wiersema, 1996). The criminal justice process in this country often leaves homicide victims' families aggrieved and feeling alienated (King, 1999; Sherman, 2000; Spungen, 1998; Vandiver, 1989; 1998). The objective of this research is to review current research and practice with families of homicide victims and to provide recommendations that promote and direct future research and practice. Estimating crime victim costs and consequences has been the focal point of numerous investigations in recent years (Cohen, Miller, & Rossman, 1994; Miller et al., 1996; Miller, Pindus, Douglass, & Rossman, 1995); yet, research has dealt only peripherally with costs and consequences to third-party victims, including the crime victims' families. This research examines the much-neglected topic of families of homicide victims. This literature review sets out (1) to estimate the incidence and prevalence of homicide co-victims, (2) to estimate the costs to homicide co-victims, (3) to examine differences in grief and trauma between homicide and other types of bereavement and sudden loss, (4) to review the research on the correlates of trauma and grief among families of homicide victims, (4) to assess current methodological problems in research on families of homicide victims, (5) to identify and describe system and community responses to homicide co-victims, and (6) to provide recommendations for future research and practice with homicide co-victims.

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Updated 05/20/2006