Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Doctor of Philosophy




Jaffe, Peter G.


This dissertation is comprised of three studies that explored the risks faced by children exposed to domestic violence, as well as systemic and agency-related recognition of, and responses to, these risks. Literature in the field has demonstrated that children living in these circumstances are at risk of significant adverse outcomes stemming from their exposure to domestic violence, and at its extreme, domestic homicides (Alisic et al., 2017; Jenney & Alaggia, 2014). In addition, these children are also at risk of becoming homicide victims in the context of domestic violence, either through being directly targeted in the homicide, or as a result of being caught in the altercation occurring between the perpetrator and victim (Jaffe, Campbell, Hamilton, & Juodis, 2012). This dissertation explored the ways in which the diverse needs of children are accounted for by systems and agencies involved with families experiencing domestic violence.

In Study One, a retrospective analysis of Ontario Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (DVDRC) child domestic homicide cases was conducted to explore risk factors and agency involvement in these cases. The study utilized a quantitative analysis of 140 cases in Ontario, Canada and identified unique risk factors in cases where children existed in the family unit, with some significant differences between cases involving and not involving children. Other significant findings were based on expected outcomes for child-specific cases. The study’s findings are indicative of children’s risk of harm as a result of their exposure to domestic violence.

In Study Two, themes are identified in domestic violence death review reports in Canada and the U.S. A thematic analysis of annual reports from three jurisdictions between 2004 to 2016 was conducted and results highlight key barriers, recommendations, and promising practices specific to children living with domestic violence.

In Study Three, the perspectives of Ontario Violence Against Women (VAW) service providers were examined in order to identify the ways in which children are included in their services and the barriers they encounter with providing child-specific interventions, particularly as they relate to risk assessment and safety planning. The study utilized a thematic analysis with 27 service providers in order to identify these barriers, which fell within individual, agency, and community-related domains.

Altogether, findings from these studies suggest that domestic homicides involving children, with the benefits of hindsight, appear predictable and/or preventable. In particular, there are warning signs that provide an opportunity for systems and agencies such as the VAW sector, to intervene with appropriate risk assessment, risk management, and safety planning strategies. Overall, a coordinated community response is needed, comprised of public awareness, professional training, the use of risk assessment tools, as well as specialized interventions.

Summary for Lay Audience

This dissertation examined child-specific risks of domestic homicide (the killing of intimate partners and/or family members in this context), domestic violence-related services available for children exposed to this violence, as well as barriers to service provision for children within Violence Against Women (VAW) agencies.