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Dutch children bereaved by domestic homicides 'more burdened than expected'

Many of the children were previously exposed to violence at home, often unbeknownst to social services


The majority of Dutch children who lost a parent to intimate partner homicide had already experienced violence, often without professional support, according to a study published October 4, 2017 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Eva Alisic from Monash University, Australia, and colleagues.

Over 55,000 children worldwide are thought to lose a parent to domestic homicide each year, and there is a need to establish a better understanding of the circumstances, needs and perspectives of affected children.

The authors of the present study gathered information from around 256 children in the Netherlands who lost a parent to intimate partner homicide between 2003 and 2012, cross-examining eight types of data including legal verdicts, child protection information and newspaper reports.

They found that two thirds of the children were known to have experienced violence at home before the homicide incident, but of these children over 40% were not previously known to mental health and social services. The potential impact on the children was heightened by the finding that a majority were in the same building as their parent at the time of the killing.

Relevant data about the cases was frequently missing, and the researchers hope that future studies could capture more complete datasets, tracking these children's mental health over time and also initiating data collection in other countries.

The authors state these results may suggest that children who lose a parent in this way not only need support to cope with the bereavement, but also with unaddressed histories of domestic violence and exposure to graphic homicide scenes.

Dr Alisic noted: "The life of these children is literally turned upside down. At once they lose both parents and often their home and school environment too, because they have to move. Our data suggest that these children are even more burdened than we already expected."


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Citation: Alisic E, Groot A, Snetselaar H, Stroeken T, van de Putte E (2017) Children bereaved by fatal intimate partner violence: A population-based study into demographics, family characteristics and homicide exposure. PLoS ONE 12(10): e0183466.

Funding: This study was funded by the Dutch Research and Documentation Centre (Ministry of Security and Justice, #2382:; PI: EA), the Prof. H.A. Weijers Stichting (no website, PI: EA) and the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (#1090229; to EA). The Dutch Research and Documentation Centre required and facilitated a study advisory board which provided feedback throughout the phases of design, data collection, and analysis of the preliminary results, but not during the preparation, review, or approval of the current manuscript. The other funding sources had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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