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Med J Aust. 1993 Mar 1;158(5):300-1.

Child homicide--the extreme of child abuse.

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Sydney University Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Children's Hospital, Camperdown, NSW.



To review cases of fatal child abuse, looking for any characteristic features of these cases.


A case review of all childhood deaths at The Children's Hospital, Camperdown, between January 1976 and December 1990. Cases with a definite diagnosis of child abuse were extracted. Cases where there was only a suspicion of child abuse as the cause of death were not included.


Seventeen cases of fatal child abuse were reviewed with emphasis on autopsy findings and sociological data.


All children who died were less than three years of age; nine were under one year. Seventy-six per cent died from head injury and 24% from asphyxia or strangulation. In addition to their fatal injuries, 41% had multiple bruises on the trunk and limbs. Thirty-five per cent had evidence of previous physical abuse.


The commonest age for fatal child abuse is the first year of life. When physical abuse occurs in children under three years, and particularly under one year, a thorough assessment, follow-up and institution of appropriate supportive services are essential, as the abuse may be an early warning of a subsequent fatal episode of abuse. The introduction of a process of review of child deaths may increase awareness of and help prevent fatal child abuse.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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