A USA TODAY examination of more than three decades of FBI homicide data shows that on average, 450 children are killed every year by their parents. Northeastern University criminologists applied statistical models to the records. USA TODAY analyzed the database for a detailed look at who kills, who is killed and how. Several patterns are apparent:
The vast majority of child victims – three out of four – are under 5. More than a third of all victims are under a year old.
Nearly half of all victims died from physical beatings or other injuries at a parent's hands.
Fathers are more likely to kill. Men killed six out 10 children, most often beating or shooting them. Fathers were at fault in 75% of cases when children were shot to death by a parent and in 64% of cases when a child was beaten. "Violence is a masculine pursuit," says Jack Levin, a Northeastern University criminologist.
When mothers kill, they are far more likely to kill victims under the age of 1 than children of any other age. Nearly 40% of all children killed by their mothers were less than a year old.
When a parent is accused of killing a child, it dominates headlines and social media.
"People are fascinated by this," says Sara West, a forensic psychiatrist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. "It's an unfathomable concept."
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