Newswise — Pediatric researchers today called on the Department of Defense to investigate the rates of child abuse homicides at military installations across the nation. The appeal from the North Carolina Child Advocacy Institute was prompted by results of its study showing children in jurisdictions with military bases were twice as likely to be killed by a parent or caregiver than other children in the state.
The findings were presented in Washington, D.C., at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies.
The study examined all North Carolina resident cases of child abuse homicides from 1985 to 2000 in children 0 through 10. The deaths were identified by individual record review. Four military installations (Ft. Bragg, Pope Air Force Base, Camp Lejeune and New River Air Station) are in the two counties with the highest rates. Child abuse homicide was defined as the killing of a child by a parent or other person responsible for its health or welfare. Military cases were those whose victims were children of one or both parents on active duty.
“In this study period, the long-term patterns of child abuse homicides are not coincidence,” says Marcia Herman-Geddens, DrPH, senior fellow at the Institute and adjunct professor at the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “They suggest problems in and around North Carolina military families and military communities that predictably result in a consistently higher number and rate of child abuse homicides than in non-military communities.”
In the study period, the state had 378 abuse homicides of children from birth through age 10, for a rate of 2.2 deaths per 100,000 children. Cumberland County (Ft. Bragg and Pope Air Force Base) had an annual abuse homicide rate for children of military families of approximately 5.0 per 100,000 (ages birth to 10) over the same period. Rates also were higher than the state average for non-military children, suggesting community-wide problems and needs.
In Onslow County (Camp Lejeune/New River Air Station), the average child abuse homicide rate for children of military families was approximately 4.9 per 100,000 during the study period. Again, the rates county-wide were higher than the state average for non-military children.
Herman-Geddens adds that “although military bases have many laudable programs and interventions to reduce child abuse and other family violence, strategies with sufficient effectiveness may be lacking, missing, inadequate and/or undermined by other influences on military and civilian families.” She warns that “action could and should be taken at the local, state, and national levels to reduce child homicides.”
Aside from a national study of all military installations in the nation, the study strongly recommends:
· The Department of Defense must initiate a data collection system for victims of family violence that captures all pediatric and adult cases. The data should include appropriate epidemiological detail and be available to the public for prevention research.
· Current prevention, treatment, and support services available to military families should be examined for effectiveness and expanded with a coordinated response to family violence to reduce spousal and child abuse.
The North Carolina Child Advocacy Institute is a non-profit, independent organization based in Raleigh. Since 1983, NCCAI has worked to make the state a better place in which to be a child and to raise a child. Information is available at http://www.ncchild.org.