Dealing with the unthinkable. The cognitive and emotional effects of child homicide on police investigators

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Huddersfield

In Collaboration With

NPCC Homicide Working Group

Principal Researcher

Dr Jason Roach

Level of Research

Professional / Work-based

Project Start Date

March 2016

Research Context

​This research is fully supported by and conducted in conjunction with the NPCC Homicide Working Group, Investigating Child Death Sub Group.

Although the death of a child is without doubt one of the most distressing events imaginable, when it occurs in suspicious circumstances, such as at the hand of a parent or close family member, its effects are often more acute and incomprehensible. This research represents an exploratory study comparing the cognitive and emotional stressors experienced by police when investigating child and adult homicides. The results of an online survey questionnaire with 99 experienced UK police investigators are presented, with key differences found in the cognitive and emotional stress experienced depending on whether the victim is a child or an adult, key differences and similarities identified in the ways investigators deal and cope with adult and child homicide cases.

Research Methodology

​Part one of the research used a survey based, Qualtrics designed, questionnaire.

Part Two involves semi-structured interviews with police investigators from the UK and Denmark, to discern how investigating child homicide has affected them individually and how they cope with the stresses and strains that such investigations often entail.

Interim reports and publications

​Roach, J.; Cartwright, A., and Sharratt,K.(2016). 'Dealing with the unthinkable: the cognitive and emotional stress of child homicide on police investigators'. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology

J Roach et al; "Cognitive and Emotional Stressors of Child Homicide Investigations on U.K. and Danish Police Investigators"; Homicide Studies; 2018, Vol. 22(3) 296–320

Date due for completion

November 2019
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