"He killed my mommy!" Murder or attempted murder of a child's mother

Linda A. Lewandowski, Judith McFarlane, Jacquelyn C. Campbell, Faye Gary, Cathleen Barenski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The murder or attempted murder of a child's mother in the context of domestic violence is a significant event in a child's life and carries with it multiple additional possible stressors. Children experiencing these situations have not, to date, been well studied. This paper discusses what is currently known in the literature about these children and provides some initial descriptive sociodemographic and contextual data regarding 237 children who experienced the murder (N = 146) or attempted murder (N = 91) of their mother by a current or estranged intimate partner. These data are part of a 10-city study to identify the risk factors in intimate partner homicide. This descriptive study suggests the alarming prevalence of children exposed to their mothers' murders or attempted murders, the paucity of systematic interventions provided to these children, the likelihood of their exposure to prior marital violence and/or child abuse, the multiple stressors they encounter after the incident, and some of the demographic variables associated with femicide and attempted femicide. Affected children are most likely to be under the age of 10 at the time of the homicide or attempted homicide with mothers who are between the ages of 30 and 39, working but earning less than $25,000 per year. Poor African American women and their children are especially vulnerable. Many of the children actually witnessed the homicide or attempted homicide (35% of homicide cases; 62% of the attempteds) or found their mother after the attack (37% of homicides cases; 28% of attempteds), but significant numbers of these children received no or little intervention. The critical needs for community-based prevention and intervention programs are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-220
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Family Violence
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2004


  • Childhood bereavement
  • Death of parent
  • Domestic violence
  • Family violence
  • Femicide
  • Homicide
  • Intimate partner violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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