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Detectives on the toll of investigating child deaths: it only gets harder

20 January 2017

Explorative study finds that murder cases involving children are more emotionally tough for police detectives than those involving adults.

Official police guidance documents are particularly blunt when it comes to discussing child murders, stating simply that "children are not meant to die", so it is perhaps surprising that little research has been done on the emotional toll faced by police detectives who investigate such harrowing cases.

A new explorative study in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology has looked to change this, with Jason Roach and his colleagues surveying 99 police detectives from 23 forces across England and Wales.

Compared to dealing with adult murders, the detectives suggested that they felt more pressure to solve cases involving children, found them harder to deal with emotionally, and thought about them more after the case had ended.

A further, and perhaps surprising, finding of the research was that the emotional impact of a case was also less when it had occured within the last six months, perhaps suggesting that the emotional impact of a child murder is harder to shake and becomes more pronounced over time.

Read more in our Research Digest blog.

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