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Changes in rates of violent child deaths in England and Wales between 1974 and 2008: an analysis of national mortality data
  1. Peter Sidebotham1,
  2. Ben Atkins1,
  3. Jane L Hutton2
  1. 1Health Sciences Research Institute, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
  2. 2Department of Statistics, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Peter Sidebotham, Health Sciences Research Institute, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Gibbett Hill Campus, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK; p.sidebotham{at}


Background This study used national data to determine if violent child death rates fell between 1974 and 2008.

Design Using mortality data from the Office of National Statistics, categories potentially containing violent child deaths were analysed for children aged <1, 1–14 and 15–19 years. These data were compared with Home Office data on recorded homicides in children aged <1 and 1–15 years.

Results Annual rates of infant deaths registered as due to assault fell between 1974 and 2008 from 5.6 to 0.7 per 100 000 infants; those in children (1–14 years) fell from 0.6 to 0.2 per 100 000. When these deaths are combined with those registered as undetermined intent, rates are higher but still show a decline in both groups. There is a slight fall in the rates of police recorded homicides in infants, but no observable change in childhood rates. In adolescents, the rates of death from assault fell during the 1970s and have since remained static in females but have risen in males. When these deaths are combined with those registered as undetermined intent, the rates for adolescent women have remained static at 2.0 per 100 000, while for young men they increased from 3.3 to 5.7 per 100 000 before declining to 4.2 per 100 000.

Conclusion These data provide evidence that rates of violent death in infancy and middle childhood have fallen over the past 30 years. In contrast, rates in adolescence have remained static or risen over the same period.

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  • Funding This study was supported by an undergraduate research student scholarship from the University of Warwick and by a research grant from the British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (BASPCAN). Neither the University of Warwick nor BASPCAN had any role in carrying out this research or in the interpretation of the findings or decision to publish. PS and JH are employed by the University of Warwick. BA was a medical student at the University of Warwick at the time the work was carried out.

  • Competing interests PS has received grant money for related work on fatal child maltreatment. He provides expert advice to courts in child protection cases. He does not stand to gain financially from the publication of this paper and has no other competing interests. BA and JH do not have any competing interests.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.