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Battered Child Syndrome: Investigating Physical Abuse and Homicide

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2002
20 pages
This guide presents practical information on the circumstances that point to the willful rather than the accidental injury or death of an infant or child and the evidence required to prove it, as well as the techniques for obtaining such evidence.
Battered child syndrome is defined as the result of repeated mistreatment or beating. If a child's injuries indicate intentional trauma or appear to be more severe than could reasonably be expected to result from an accident, battered child syndrome should be suspected. In such cases, an investigator must do more than collect information about the currently reported injury. A full investigation requires interviewing possible witnesses about other injuries that the child may have suffered, obtaining the caretakers' explanation for those injuries, and assessing the conclusions of medical personnel who may have seen the victim on a prior occasion. This booklet provides guidelines for interviews with medical personnel, consultation with experts, interviews with caretakers, crime scene investigation, and other important sources of information. A separate section focuses on investigative guidelines for child homicides. In addition to general guidelines for the investigation of child deaths, specific guidelines are provided for the following types of child deaths: shaken baby syndrome, Munchausen syndrome by proxy, and sudden infant death syndrome. 21 supplemental readings, 3 resource organizations, and 15 additional resources

Date Published: December 1, 2002