Health care professionals' role in preventing child homicides in the context of domestic violence

Peter G. Jaffe, Marcie Campbell, Laura P. Olszowy


This review article highlights the risks that children may face in the context of domestic violence (DV). Although there are significant risks for psychological harm for children exposed to DV, in extreme cases, children may be exposed to a domestic homicide or become homicide victims themselves. Often these tragedies appear predictable and preventable with the presence of several risk factors. Risk assessment tools currently being used to identify the level of risk to an adult victim of DV also indicate a potential risk to a child. Health care professionals need to be aware of the risk for lethality with children exposed to DV and to raise these issues with patients in consideration of the risk to children. Prevention of these tragedies requires enhanced training on domestic violence and the risk for lethality with victims and children. Standardized protocols for interventions and risk management that include safety plans for children are needed.

Conclusion - Reviews of domestic homicides suggest that children may be at significant risk of harm and health care professionals need to recognize that risks to adult partners in these circumstances also pose risks to children.


Domestic violence; Child abuse; Homicide

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