South Africa’s estimated rate of child homicide is more than double the global average, according to a 2013 study published in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Bulletin.
Despite this, researchers say that there is knowledge gap in terms of understanding the causes behind pressing issue.
Lisa Vetten, gender researcher at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, says that existing information on child murders focuses on statistical evidence.
She says there have been no sufficient studies on the causes of violence and information is needed to establish the best interventions.
South African research gives us the size and the prevalence of the problem, we don't have the research that gives us the insight into why it happens, the motivating factors and preventative measures.— Lisa Vetten, gender researcher
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Dr Naeemah Abrahams, Deputy Director of the Gender and Health Research Unit at the Medical Research Council, says that much of the children who are killed by their parents (known as filicide) were unwanted pregnancies.
According to Vetten, fathers who kill their children have typically had a difficult relationship history with the mother of the child.
Abrahams adds that the older the children get, the more likely that the father will be the perpetrator.
The epidemiology of child homicides in South Africa is the first study of its kind in the country on the murder of children, and is based on 2009 statistics from state mortuaries.
Findings show that children under the age of five most often die at the hands of filicide, and mothers are generally the perpetrators in cases where children are younger than one.
Between January and December 2009, 1 018 children were murdered – that is 5.5 in every 100 000 children under 18.