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About Sickkids
About SickKids

May 28, 2009

HOT TOPIC - Researchers find children under five living in poor neighbourhoods have the greatest chance of being killed in a homicide

Children under five living in Canada’s poorest urban neighbourhoods have the highest risk of death by homicide, according to a new study. A team of researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Bloorview Kids Rehab and Statistics Canada investigated the relationship between homicides and socioeconomic status in children under the age of 15. The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that children in poorer neighbourhoods have three times the risk of homicide as children in high-income neighbourhoods, with children under five at the highest risk.

“I think these disparities are alarming,” says Dr. Catherine Birken, a paediatrician and Project Investigator at SickKids and lead author of the study. “Canadians should be aware of the severity of this issue.”

The study focused on children living in Canada’s urban areas from 1996 to 1998. During this time there were 87 homicides of children under the age of 15. Almost 60 percent of the children or 51 kids were under the age of five.

The researchers also found thirty-three of the children who were killed lived in the poorest areas, compared to 13 who lived in the richest neighbourhoods.

The children were divided by census area and compared using the Statistics Canada low-income cut-off level. This level is similar to the Canadian poverty line but is adjusted for family size and metropolitan area size.

According to Birken, this is one of the first Canadian studies to examine the relationship between neighbourhood socioeconomic status and homicide. With this study, the researchers emphasize the importance of evidence-based violence prevention programs for young families, targeted to poor neighbourhoods.

“We hope this study sheds light on the issue of homicide in young children and provides insight into the work that needs to be done to prevent homicides in Canada” says Birken.