Legal Review: Homicides Rates Among Children Are Rising, a Study Finds

If most people were honest, they would rank the death of a child through homicide as among the most heartbreaking. As infuriating as it may be, it is a relatively common occurrence, and even worse, it has been on the rise in recent years.

According to a recent study published in JAMA pediatrics, child homicides have been increasing by 4.3 percent each year for a decade. In total, approximately 38,362 children in America were victims of homicide from 1999 to 2020.

The overall rate of homicides saw an especially drastic rise from 2019 to 2020 at 27.7 percent. According to the study, 47 percent of the deaths recorded between 2019 and 2020 were gun related.

Black Communities Most Affected

Black male children were more likely to be victims of homicide than any other ethnic group. According to the study, the rate of black kid homicides increased by 16 percent from 2018 to 2020. The rate of homicides for black boys aged 16 to 17 was 18 times higher than in white males and 4.6 percent higher than Hispanics in the same age bracket.

Homicide rates for children in the American Indian and Alaska Native communities were seen to have decreased from 1999 to 2020, but the decrease was not statistically significant. Groups that showed a significant decline in child homicide rates are white, Pacific Islander, and Asian communities.

The last few years have seen child homicide rates increase in rural areas with limited employment opportunities and challenges with poverty. However, the climb in rural areas is much lower than in urban areas.

Homicides by Age

For children aged ten or younger, most homicides resulted from neglect or abuse by parents or caregivers. Most children over ten were killed in arguments, in the course of committing a crime, or by a friend or acquaintance.

While the statistics paint a grim picture of homicides, there is good news. Homicide rates for children between zero to five years have been steadily declining for the last two decades. According to the researchers, this decline coincides with medical reforms such as the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program aimed to support pregnant mothers and parents in underprivileged communities.

There was a notable increase in homicide rates for kids aged six and ten. “Unfortunately, nobody seems to be paying enough attention to this age group, making it somewhat forgotten,” says Shawn Sukumar of Shawn Sukumar, Attorney at Law.

Most programs are geared towards the very young up to five. After the very young, the teens come second. Also, intervention programs for this group often focus on peer violence, such as bullying and sexual violence, leaving out things like child-parent violence.

Solutions to the Problem

According to earlier studies, increased homicide rates along racial lines have everything to do with system-based inequities. Homicide rates tend to be higher in areas with high populations, limited places to play, and underfunded school systems.

The unconscious bias of authority figures in these neighborhoods also tends to dehumanize these children by perceiving them as less childlike and somewhat more culpable for their actions than kids from rich neighborhoods where white children are more likely to be found.

The solution to these problems is addressing the problem of systemic racism and poverty and influencing positive changes in affected communities. If everyone in the government, private sector, and on an individual level played their part, there could be some hope in reversing these trends.