A domestic violence study has revealed parents or stepfathers kill about six Victorian children each year on average.
The Monash University Filicide Project’s study into children killed by a parent or guardian will be discussed before Victoria’s historic royal commission into family violence on Wednesday.
Filicide is the unlawful killing of a child at the hands of a parent or equivalent guardian.
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The study look at filicide deaths in the decade between 2000 and 2009, finding that there were 57 deaths in Victoria.
However, the study only thoroughly examined 40 cases as legal proceedings had closed or the perpetrator had been clearly identified.
Of the 40 victims, 14 were less than a year old with two of them killed within the first 24 hours of birth, 15 were aged one to four, five were aged five to nine, four were aged 10 to 14, and two were aged 15 to 18.
26 were boys and 14 were girls.
Mothers killed 16 children, fathers killed 15 and stepfathers killed nine.
The methods of death included drowning, asphyxiation, assault, the use of knives, smoke inhalation from a fire, drug overdose or withholding prescribed medication.
Separation or divorce figured in 23 out of the 40 deaths, and 29 of the 40 fell victim of a parent or carer with a diagnosed mental illness.
There was no history of domestic violence in 25 cases and it was suspected but not proven in a further five cases.
Thirteen of the children in the study had suffered past child abuse, with child abuse suspected in a further five cases.
There were also 13 cases in which a parent or stepfather had a substance abuse problem, with stepfathers represented in seven of those deaths.