Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Alvin Wolfe, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Linda Whiteford, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Susan Greenbaum, Ph.D.


Child Maltreatment, Homicide, Infanticide, Filicide, Family Violence, Parental motivation


This thesis examines child death data in an effort to assist in prevention and intervention, as well as, to provide quantitative and qualitative analysis to improve and enhance policy development around child deaths due to abuse and neglect in Florida. The data reviewed consisted of aggregate data for all incidents of child deaths (N = 266) in Florida where the primary caregiver was the alleged perpetrator of a child fatality for children under age 18. All data examined were recorded and stored in the Department of Children and Families’ Child Safety Assessment database between 1998 and 2000.

According to national and state data on maltreatment deaths, the number of physical abuse deaths are slightly higher than fatalities categorized as due to neglect (51% and 43%, respectively), and the remaining 6% are attributed to both abuse and neglect. The data suggest that mothers account for the greatest percentage of child deaths due to neglect, while fathers and other male caregivers are responsible for the greatest percentage of child fatalities due to physical abuse. There was no significant difference between child fatalities committed by biological fathers as opposed to other male caregivers, which suggests that policies around caregiver relationship has had limited impact on child safety.

Describing and defining different kinds of maltreatment requires that attention be paid to historical and cultural environments. Policies for preventing or reducing child deaths requires understanding of risk factors and protective factors at the level of the individual, the family, the community, and the society.

Whereas men and women differ in types of maltreatment they are likely to commit, the difference in rate of child fatalities committed by biological fathers as opposed to other male caregivers is insignificant. These findings suggest that policies that focus on caregiver relationship have limited impact on child safety.

Anthropological holistic insight on the domains and factors that contribute to the increase in child deaths due to maltreatment may help to develop new policy initiatives. Until research advances our knowledge and that knowledge is used to set policies, and those polices properly implemented, children will continue to fall victim to maltreatment fatalities.