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CDC: First year of life carries highest risk for homicide

Updated:
ATLANTA (AP) _ The risk of getting killed by someone is greater during the first year of life than at any other time before age 17, the government reported Thursday.

Infant homicide victims were most likely to be killed during their first week, with 82 percent of those slayings committed on the day of birth, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The sixth through the eighth week _ when babies cry more persistently _ was the second peak period for infant homicides, the CDC said.

The agency studied more than 3,300 death certificates from 1989 to 1998. Homicide is the 15th-leading cause of infant deaths in the United States.

Of the babies killed on their first day, 95 percent were not born in a hospital, the CDC said, citing earlier studies. About 89 percent of the known killers was female, typically the mother, researchers said.

Dr. Len Paulozzi, the report's author and a researcher in the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said the study demonstrates that prevention measures must be targeted at the earliest stages of a child's life.

``You need to be involved really before the delivery of the child in order to really head off infant homicides,'' he said.

Dr. Frederick Rivara, a pediatrics professor at the University of Washington, said he believes the findings reflect the many pregnant teen-agers unsure of how to cope with being a parent.

``It's obviously a tragedy given that there are a lot of people in the United States who would love to adopt a baby,'' said Rivara, former director of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center in Seattle.

``We need to have these teen-agers know that there's help out there for them and there's an alternative to concealing the pregnancy and not allowing the baby to live.''

Researchers noted the report was subject to faulty homicide counts.

Some deaths were probably not recorded as homicides because of unintentional injuries and deaths attributed to sudden infant death syndrome, the CDC said. Others might have been wrongly classified as homicides when they were stillbirths.
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