Homicide of children aged 0–5 years in Germany

Project period

2007 – 2012

Project staff

Prof. Dr. Theresia Höynck (Project manager)

Marlies Kroetsch

Dr. Ulrike Zähringer

Nora Haertel


Fritz Thyssen Stiftung (Aktenanalyse, Jugendhilfe-Interviews),

Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend (TäterInnen-Interviews),

Niedersächsisches Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kultur im Rahmen des Programms „Projekt-Promotion plus“ (Jugendhilfe-Interviews),

Own funds

Project description

In recent years, spectacular cases have sensitised people to the fact that children can also fall victim to murder and that babies and small children are particularly at risk of becoming victims of intentional homicide, fatal maltreatment or extreme neglect with fatal consequences. Nonetheless, few conclusive findings are available on the subject. As part of a retrospective study based on several different data sources, a series of research questions were developed for investigating the under-six victim group. Firstly, the study aimed to generate reliable data on the nature of child homicides. Secondly, it identified causes, circumstances and risk factors. Thirdly, it analysed these in order to draw conclusions for the prevention of child homicides. Fourthly, and in parallel to the foregoing, it investigated the detection, investigation and criminal prosecution of child homicides.

The research project took a multi-phase and multi-method approach. A key element of this was an analysis of criminal prosecution files on all cases of intentional, completed homicides of children under six years of age in Germany for the period 1997 to 2006.

In parallel, a separate project module involved interviews with perpetrators. The interviews were designed to provide a better grasp of the case groups identified in the case file analysis in all their complexity.

In a further sub-project, qualitative interviews with youth welfare practitioners (youth welfare offices/independent welfare organisations) were used to look at prior supervisional work, subsequent institutional treatment, and the legal and structural conditions involved in the cases concerned.

Project related publications