Children at risk from stepdads

Sunday Star Times 08/05/2011

BABY SERENITY Scott-Dinnington died from brain injuries sustained during a violent incident at her home in Ngaruawahia 10 days ago. She was just six months old. Now child advocates say that raising a young child with a man who is not its father increases the risk of the child being violently assaulted. Some have gone as far as claiming that raising a child with its biological father “virtually guarantees the child won’t die”, but substitute the father for another man and you risk harm to the child. Young men, rather than women, are over-represented in child abuse statistics, despite women usually being the primary carers. Last year 125 men aged between 17 and 30 were arrested for assault on a child and another 10 for using a weapon. For women, the numbers were 59 and five respectively. Hamilton-based Child Matters chief executive Anthea Simcock said anecdotal evidence showed incidents of abuse were perpetrated by women as the lead carers, but when children were seriously injured it was more often by physically stronger men. Simcock said there was a “heap” of research that identified children who were living with an unrelated adult were at increased risk. A report from the children’s commissioner in 2009 showed of 57 under-five child homicide deaths from 1991-2000 the father was the perpetrator 18 times, the mother 14 times, and a defacto partner 25 times.