Working Group on Child Death Review2021-11-27T00:09:11-07:00

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In 2018 an estimated 6.2 million children and adolescents under the age of 15 years died, mostly from preventable causes.Sep 19, 2019 according to WHO.  

There is an increasing recognition of the benefits of studying child fatalities to ascertain why children die and whether some of these deaths might be preventable. ISPCAN’s Working Group on Child Death Review assesses the public health response and systems in place regarding the examination of unexpected child death in order to uncover abuse and neglect and establish better prevention measures within a country’s child protection system.

This Working Group frequently meets at ISPCAN Congresses and these sessions are open to anyone with a professional interest in seeking to undertake high-quality reviews of child deaths. The meeting is typically run in a workshop format, using case examples to share approaches to the review of child deaths.

ISPCAN members as well as nonmembers interested are encouraged to engage with this group by subscribing to this page, starting a conversation in the Forum below, or submitting a resource or report. We welcome participants from all disciplines and with varied experiences.

To learn more about the CDR process, the importance of a multi-sector approach, and the elements of an effective CDR team, please click on this link to a view a CDR module developed by Joan van Niekerk, ISPCAN past president: Child Death Review Module

Convener: Fujiko Yamada, ISPCAN Councilor

If you have questions about this group, please contact

Key Definitions

Key Research

Amon, S., Klier, C. M., Putkonen, H., Weizmann‐Henelius, G., & Fernandez Arias, P. (2020). Neonaticide in the courtroom–room for improvement? Conclusions drawn from Austria and Finland’s register review. Child Abuse Review, 29(1), 61-72.


This study analyses the psychological, clinical and criminal characteristics of neonaticide focusing on court verdicts with the aim of formulating recommendations for judicial guidelines. This study was register based, comprising all known neonaticides in Austria and Finland between 1995 and 2005. The cases (n = 28) were obtained by screening death certificates from coroner departments and analysing them alongside all further reports available. Five out of 21 convicted offenders were imprisoned with an average sentence of 1.65 years. A mental disorder, at the time of the offence, was diagnosed in half of the offenders (9/18) who underwent forensic examination. Of the total offenders, 14 were deemed responsible for the crime, one was deemed to have had diminished responsibility and three were considered not responsible for the crime. The main motive, determined by court evaluation, was an ‘unwanted child’, followed by ‘no motive’, ‘fear of abandonment or a negative response from others’ and ‘mental overload’. The rate of repeated neonaticide was 13 per cent. Considering the rate of mental illness within the neonaticide offenders, we would recommend a treatment detention order instead of imprisonment or non‐prosecution, as well as state‐of‐the‐art guidelines for the court.

Razali, S., Kirkman, M., & Fisher, J. (2020). Why women commit filicide: Opinions of health, social work, education and policy professionals in Malaysia. Child Abuse Review, 29(1), 73-84


Although filicide is discussed with concern in the print media and online in Malaysia, there is little empirical evidence about its aetiology or appropriate responses. We sought to elucidate the opinions of health, social work, education and policy professionals in Malaysia on the causes of, and solutions to, filicide. Fifteen informants participated in semi‐structured qualitative interviews. Informants attributed responsibility for filicide to girls and women as a consequence of their failure to comply with social norms and religious teachings; the stigmatised social position of women who are pregnant and unmarried was identified as a contributing factor. No informant mentioned the impact of gender‐based violence, including sexual violence against girls and women. Informants’ views reflect the dominant discourse of filicide in Malaysia, which is that it results from women’s failure to adhere to Malaysian norms of morality, religion, customs and traditions. Solutions were largely directed at changing the behaviour of girls and women. Given the disparities between the public discourse and evidence of the experiences of women convicted of filicide, interventions that promote social change might be more effective than strategies targeting women.

Denham, A. R., Eickelkamp, U., Groark, K. P., Hollan, D., Johnson, A. W., Khan, N., … & Denham, A. R. (2020). The Withins and Withouts of Infanticide. Current Anthropology, 61(1), 77-99.


In northern Ghana, the Nankani people describe how disabled or ill children and those whose births coincide with tragic events are spirit children sent from the bush to cause misfortune and destroy the family. Upon identification, some spirit children are subject to infanticide. People often describe spirit children as wanting to kill the same-sex parent to take over the house. Based on discourse alone, one might explain the spirit child in terms of a presumed underlying oedipal dynamic, but such an analysis is partial. When we interpret the spirit child from the bifocal vision of cultural psychodynamics, which links cultural phenomenology and psychodynamic paradigms, we gain a complex understanding of the interactions between Nankani cultural models, moral imaginations, family relations, and parental ambivalence. I interpret families’ perceptions of danger and their feelings of fear and hostility toward children and refer to infant alterity, narcissistic injury, scapegoating, and projective processes that link individual sentiments and decision-making with their cultural and material contexts. Cultural psychodynamics illuminates Nankani conceptions of child development, morality, and parental psychologies and offers insights into how and why some parents kill their children.

Jung, K., Kim, H., Lee, E., Choi, I., Lim, H., Lee, B., … & Hong, H. G. (2020). Cluster analysis of child homicide in South Korea. Child Abuse & Neglect, 101, 104322.


Background: There has been an insufficient in-depth analysis of the nature and prevalence of the typologies of child homicide in Asia, particularly in South Korea.

Objective: In the current study, we sought to determine the prevalence and identify the heterogeneity of the child homicide phenomenon in South Korea.

Participant and settings: All 341 original case files (i.e., hospital, police, and autopsy reports) of homicide incidents involving children aged 0–18 in 2016 were obtained from the forensic autopsy archives of the National Forensic Service (NFS), which handles 100 % of the medico-legal autopsies in South Korea. These were examined and reclassified based on our definition.

Method: A cluster analysis using Gower’s distance was applied, which has rarely been utilized in this field of research. By performing a qualitative analysis, we first extracted 70 (numerical, logical, categorical) crime, victim, perpetrator, and household relevant variables, which were later utilized in the cluster analysis.

Results: Among the 341 cases from 2016, 95 were judged to be at least suspicious child homicide cases. When applying the cluster analysis, eight sub-clusters were extracted: child torture, maternal filicide, neonaticide, death not related to previous abuse, paternal filicide, paternal infanticide, maternal infanticide, and psychotic killings.

Conclusions: The commonality and the unique aspect of the child homicide phenomenon in South Korea, in comparison with the results from previous research from other countries, are discussed.

Scott, K., Olszowy, L., Saxton, M., & Reif, K. (2020). Child homicides in the context of domestic violence: when the plight of children is overlooked. In Preventing Domestic Homicides (pp. 159-185). Academic Press.


A substantial minority of domestic violence (DV) homicides also involves the murder of a child and significant subsample of all children killed, for any reason, are killed by their fathers in the context of DV. In this chapter, we consider the role that police, child protection services, family courts, and women’s shelters may play in helping to prevent DV homicides that involve children.

Key Resources

Major Data Sources available for this Topic

Infant, Child, and Teen Mortality – Child Trends › indicators › infant-child-and-teen-mortality

Child and Infant Mortality – Our World in Data › child-mortality

FastStats – Child Health – Centers for Disease Control › nchs › fastats › child-health

Child Mortality – UNICEF DATA › topic › child-survival › under-five-mortality
In 2018 alone, roughly 15,000 under-five deaths occurred every day, an intolerably high number of largely preventable child deaths. Most regions in the world and 148 out of 195 countries at least halved their under-five mortality rate from 1990-2018.

Child mortality and causes of death – WHO › gho › child_health › mortality
The leading causes of death among children under five in 2017 were preterm birth complications, acute respiratory … MORE CHILD HEALTH DATA PRODUCTS.

Under-five mortality – WHO › gho › child_health › mortality_under_five_text
Dec 21, 2018 – For the study, researchers sorted through CDC and World Health Organization data on 20,360 deaths of children and adolescents in the United …
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