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Int J Inj Contr Saf Promot. 2013;20(3):209-17. doi: 10.1080/17457300.2012.724691. Epub 2012 Sep 24.

What is the 'dark figure' of child homicide and how can it be addressed in Australia?

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  • 1a Monash Injury Research Institute, Building 70, Monash University , Clayton , 3800 , Australia.


Child injury, regardless of intent, is a major public health issue in Australia and elsewhere. Child protection and injury prevention policies and practices are implemented in most countries in an attempt to manage and reduce the incidence of both intentional and unintentional injuries. While these systems are thought to assist in improving protection from violence, injury and neglect, one of the major limitations in understanding the effectiveness of child protection policy in Australia is a lack of reliable national data on child abuse and neglect. As a result there is a lack of an appropriate evidence base on which to guide the development of effective policies. A particular area where official figures may under-represent the true prevalence of child deaths is those which result from homicide. This article provides a review of the recent literature on child homicide, abuse and neglect, with the overall aim of understanding more fully the reasons for the possible under-representation of child homicides and provides recommendations to address this problem in Australia. Improvements in methods of identifying at risk children in addition to systematic investigations of child deaths to understand the risk factors and underlying contributing factors are required.

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