The Killing of Children: Situations and Contexts

Kate Cavanagh, University of Glasgow
Ruth Lewis, University of Newcastle
R. Emerson Dobash, University of Manchester
Russell P. Dobash, University of Manchester

This paper examines the phenomenon of child killing in Britain and draws on data collected for an ESRC funded, national study of homicide.

The aims of the wider study are to develop a multi-dimensional typology of homicide; to investigate the motivational, interactional and situational contexts associated with different types of lethal violence and the respective risk factors. Data was collected from three sources: the Scottish and British national homicide indices; examination of the casefiles of 860 perpetrators of murder; and in-depth interviews with 200 such perpetrators currently serving sentences in Scottish and English prisons.

Using quantitative data, the paper will identify the social contexts within which the killing of children occurs, particular consideration being given to the social interactions leading up the lethal event. A number of other themes will be explored including the motives and intentions of the perpetrators; their offending history; and childhood experiences. A particular focus will be on the nature of the relationship between victims and perpetrators including a consideration of the impact of age, gender and relational distance. The paper aims more broadly to develop a typology of child killing.

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Updated 05/20/2006