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Infant Homicides Within the Context of Safe Haven Laws — United States, 2008–2017
  • Published Date:

    October 02 2020

  • Source:
    MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 69(39):1385-1390
  • Language:
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  • Alternative Title:
    MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep
  • Description:
    Homicide is the 13th leading cause of death among infants (i.e., children aged <1 year) in the United States (1). Infant homicides occurring within the first 24 hours of life (i.e., neonaticide) are primarily perpetrated by the mother, who might be of young age, unmarried, have lower educational attainment, and is most likely associated with concealment of an unintended pregnancy and nonhospital birthing (2). After the first day of life, infant homicides might be associated with other factors (e.g., child abuse and neglect or caregiver frustration) (2). A 2002 study of the age variation in homicide risk in U.S. infants during 1989-1998 found that the overall infant homicide rate was 8.3 per 100,000 person-years, and on the first day of life was 222.2 per 100,000 person-years, a homicide rate at least 10 times greater than that for any other time of life (3). Because of this period of heightened risk, by 2008 all 50 states* and Puerto Rico had enacted Safe Haven Laws. These laws allow a parent| to legally surrender an infant who might otherwise be abandoned or endangered (4). CDC analyzed infant homicides in the United States during 2008-2017 to determine whether rates changed after nationwide implementation of Safe Haven Laws, and to examine the association between infant homicide rates and state-specific Safe Haven age limits. During 2008-2017, the overall infant homicide rate was 7.2 per 100,000 person-years, and on the first day of life was 74.0 per 100,000 person-years, representing a 66.7% decrease from 1989-1998. However, the homicide rate on first day of life was still 5.4 times higher than that for any other time in life. No obvious association was found between infant homicide rates and Safe Haven age limits. States are encouraged to evaluate the effectiveness of their Safe Haven Laws and other prevention strategies to ensure they are achieving the intended benefits of preventing infant homicides. Programs and policies that strengthen economic supports, provide affordable childcare, and enhance and improve skills for young parents might contribute to the prevention of infant homicides.
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