Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 347–362

A profile of parental homicide against children

  • Jenifer Kunz
  • Stephen J. Bahr
Article

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to provide a profile of victims and offenders in cases where children were killed by their parents. The data were all incidents (3,459) in which a parent killed a child under age 18, which were recorded in theUniform Crime Reports between 1976 and 1985. In the first week of a child's life, the risk of being killed by a parent was equal for males and females. From 1 week to 15 years, males were the victims in about 55% of all parent-child homicides; the percentage of male victims increased to 77% in the 16–18 age group. Among infants in the first week of life, mothers were almost always the ones who committed the homicide. Between the first week of life and the teenage years, mothers and fathers were about equally likely to kill their child. During the 13–15 year age group, fathers committed 63% of all homicides, and this increased to 80% among the 16–18 year age group. Among very young children, the causes of death tended to be personal weaponds, asphyxiation, or drowning. As age increased, the weapons became predominantly guns and knives.

Key Words

child homicide parent-child homicide age and parent-child homicide gender and parent-child homicide 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Abel, E. L. (1986). Childhood homicide in Erie County, New York,Pediatrics 77(5): 709–713.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Adelson, L. (1961). Slaughter of the innocents.New Engl. J. Med. 264(26): 1345–1349.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Centerwall, B. S. (1984). Race, socioeconomic status, and domestic homicide, Atlanta, 1971–72.Am. J. Publ. Health 74(8): 813–815.Google Scholar
  4. Christoffel, K. K.,(1984). Homicide in childhood: A public health problem in need of attention.Am. J. Publ. Health 74(1): 68–70.Google Scholar
  5. Christoffel, K. K., Anzinger, N. K. and Amari, M. (1983). Homicide in childhood. TheAm. J. Forensic Med. Pathol. 4(2): 129–137.Google Scholar
  6. Daly, M. (1988). Evolutionary social psychology and family homicide.Science 242: 519–542.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Daly, M., and Wilson, M. (1984). A sociobiological analysis of human infanticide. In Hausfater, G., and Hrdy, S. B. (eds.),Infanticide: Comparative and Evolutionary Perspectives, Aldine, New York, pp. 487–502.Google Scholar
  8. Dawson, J. M., and Langan, P. A. (1994). Murder in Families. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.Google Scholar
  9. d'Orban, P. T. (1979). Women who kill their children.Brit. J. Psychiatr. 134: 560–571.Google Scholar
  10. Ewigman, B., Kivlahan, C., and Land, G. (1993). The Missouri child fatality study: Underreporting of maltreatment fatalities among children yonger than five years of age, 1983 through 1986.Pediatrics 91: 330–337.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Federal Bureau of Investigation (1992).Uniform Crime Reports, 1992, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  12. Federal Bureau of Investigation (1995).Unifrom Crime Reports, 1994, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  13. Finkelhor, D. and Dziuba-Leatherman, J. (1994). Vitimization of children.Am. Psychologist 49: 173–183.Google Scholar
  14. Gelles, R. J., and Straus, M. A. (1979). Determinants of violence in the family: Toward a theoretical integration. In W. R. Burr, R. Hill, F. I. Nye, and I. L. Reiss (Eds.),Contemporary Theories about the Family, Volume 1. New York: The Free Press, pp. 549–581.Google Scholar
  15. Goetting, A. (1987). Homicidal wives: A profile.J. Fam. Issues 8: 332–341.Google Scholar
  16. Hawkins, J. D., and Catalano, R. F., 1994.Communities that Care: Action for Drug Abuse Prevention, Developmental Research & Programs, Inc., Seattle.Google Scholar
  17. Jason, J. (1983). Child homicide spectrum.Am. J. Disabl. Child. 137: 578–581.Google Scholar
  18. Jason, J., Carpenter, M. M., and Tyler, C. W. (1983). Under-recording of infant homicide in the United States.Am. J. Publ. Health 73(2): 195–197.Google Scholar
  19. Kaplun, D. (1976). The murdered child and his killers.Am. J. Psychiatry 133(7): 809–813.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Klein, D., Reizen, M. S., Van Amburg, G. H., and Walker, S. A. (1976). Some social characteristics of young gunshot fatalities.Accident Anal. Prevent. 9: 177–182.Google Scholar
  21. Margolin, L. (1990). Fatal child neglect.Child Welf. 69(4): 309–319.Google Scholar
  22. Muscat, J. E. (1988). Characteristics of childhood homicide in Ohio, 1974–1984.Am. J. Publ. Health 78(7): 822–824.Google Scholar
  23. Nixon, J., Pearn, J., Wilkey, I., and Petrie, G. (1981). Social class and violent child death: An analysis of fatal nonaccidental injury, murder, and fatal child neglect.Child Abuse Negl. 5: 111–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Paulson, J. A., and Rushforth, N. B. (1986). Violent death in children in a metropolitan county: Changing patterns of homicide, 1958 to 1982.Pediatrics 78(6): 1013–1020.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Resnick, P. J. (1969). Child murder by parents: A psychiatric review of filicide.Am. J. Psychiatry 126(3): 73–82.Google Scholar
  26. Silverman, R. A., Riedel, M., and Kennedy, L. W. (1990.) Murdered children: A comparison of racial differences across two jurisdictions.J. Crimin. Just. 18: 401–416.Google Scholar
  27. Somander, L. K., and Rammer, L. M. (1991). Intra- and extrafamilial child homicide in Sweden, 1971–1980.Child Abuse Negl. 15: 45–55.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. U.S. Bureau of the Census. (1993).Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1993 (113th edition), U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  29. Wolfner, G. D., and Gelles, R. J. (1993). A profile of violence toward children: A national study.Child Abuse Negl. 17: 197–212.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jenifer Kunz
    • 1
  • Stephen J. Bahr
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Behavioral ScienceWest Texas A & MCanyon
  2. 2.Department of Sociology and Center for Studies of the FamilyBrigham Young UniversityProvo

Personalised recommendations