Smacking ban could help save children’s lives

From, 5 January 2009:
Outlawing corporal punishment of children, and improved detection of early psychotic illness in mothers, could go a long way towards reducing the number of child homicides in Australia, according to research in the Medical Journal of Australia this week.
A study of 165 child homicides found 27 deaths were caused by offenders experiencing acute psychotic illness, and more than half of these offenders—almost all mothers, many from non-English speaking backgrounds—had never been treated with antipsychotic medication.
“Patients in first-episode psychosis had shown signs of mental illness for an average of six months and had acute psychotic symptoms for an average of six weeks before the homicide,” the authors wrote.
Most of these offenders had had some contact with health services in the two weeks before the homicide.
Child abuse was the most common reason for child homicide, blamed for 59 deaths including five from methadone overdose.
The authors suggested that reducing the incidence of child abuse by banning corporal punishment of children—an intervention already shown to be effective in Sweden—could help prevent some child homicides.
From 1987 to 2001, 437 Australian children aged under 15 years were murdered, with the highest incidence of child homicide being in children under one year old, the authors found.
The figures compare rather unfavourably with the United Kingdom. Australian children aged 0-4 are around 50% more likely, and those aged 5–15 years are twice as likely, to die by homicide compared to their British counterparts. Read more.

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