about the children?
Nursing School Researchers Seek To Learn The Fates Of The Children
Of Domestic Homicide
December 16, 2003 --
story is all too familiar: A troubled relationship, an abusive
partner, a disagreement, a lashing out, blood spilled.
the other led away in handcuffs — or perhaps a suicide.
happens to the children, some of whom may even have witnessed
H. Steeves, a University of Virginia associate professor of nursing
who has studied bereavement for much of
said he was “shocked” to
find that no one really knows. He and a colleague, Barbara J. Parker — a
nursing professor and expert in domestic violence — searched for records
to document the fate of children in such cases, and found none.
armed with a three-year, $750,000 grant from the National Institute
Research (part of the National Institutes of Health), Parker and
embarked on their own study of the children of uxoricide — literally,
the murder of one’s wife, but broadened to include the killing of
one parent by another.
are seeking to interview adults who have lived through domestic
homicide. Unfortunately, they believe that there will
be no shortage of interviewees.
By multiplying the number of domestic homicides among couples of child-bearing
each year by an average of two children, they estimate that there are
approximately as many children of uxoricide — 2,700 — as
there are children diagnosed with leukemia annually.
smaller pilot study conducted in the summer of 2002 turned up
people from Central Virginia, including two pairs of siblings. Although
and Steeves declined to discuss their findings, for fear of prejudicing
they say that the response demonstrates that there are people who are
willing to talk about their experiences.
new study will seek subjects from a wider geographical area.
The parents need not have been
married at the time of the homicide to be
they may include live-ins or ex-spouses. The children may have been
of any age
killing occurred, they need not have any memory of the event itself.
Anyone willing to be included in the study may call toll-free (866)
834-9564; (434) 243-6949 in the Charlottesville area; or contact
via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
U.Va. study is qualitative, not quantitative. Interviewers will
ask open-ended questions and
let the subjects guide the interview.
need not talk
about their parents’ deaths if they are not comfortable doing
want to know what it was like for them to grow up after this
said. “We want them to tell us what is important.”
Parker and Steeves began looking into the fates of these children,
they discovered that no one kept records — not the court
system, not social service agencies. “These kids are
not officially victims of crime, so they are not followed by
support groups,” Parker said.
are taken in by relatives; others enter the social service system.
Some find stable homes;
others “go from foster home to foster home,” Parker
said. Often, the disposition of the children is not recorded.
researchers acknowledge that their results will not necessarily
represent the full range of experiences that these children
have, as they may end
up interviewing only those people who are well-adjusted
enough to be able to
talk about their
“The end result is finding out what kinds of intervention these kids need
and when they need it,” Steeves said. “We just don’t know anything
about these kids.”
Dan Heuchert, (434) 924-7676