Neglected victims of murder: Children’s witness to parental homicide

Sondra Burman, Paula Allen-Meares

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Children who witness parental homicides are emotionally traumatized, stigmatized, and deeply scarred by a terrifying event. They often exhibit debilitating symptoms comparable to those of posttraumatic stress disorder. As attention is focused on the deceased and on the perpetrator of the crime, the child witnesses inadvertently become the neglected victims. A case report of two such children who observed their mother being murdered by their father is presented. Theories of psychosocial development and social learning guided the assessment and intervention phases. Behavioral and expressive therapeutic treatment strategies that helped the children work through the resultant anxiety and underlying grief are delineated, and family intervention practices that served to improve interaction and communication patterns are described. Further discussion focuses on the potential intergenerational cycle of violence and on a sociocultural perspective of family violence within an ecological framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-34
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Work (United States)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1994


  • Children
  • Family violence
  • Homicide
  • Parents
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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