Archives of Women's Mental Health

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 15–23 | Cite as

Neonaticides may be more preventable and heterogeneous than previously thought – neonaticides in Finland 1980–2000

  • H. Putkonen
  • G. Weizmann-Henelius
  • J. Collander
  • P. Santtila
  • M. Eronen
Original contribution


Neonaticide is a sad and infrequent crime with possibly a high level of underreporting. The aim of this study was to examine the circumstances of neonaticide, and whether there are subtypes of offenders, or suggestions for prevention. The study was retrospective and register-based using comprehensive nation-wide material of all cases of suspected neonaticide during 1980–2000 in Finland. Out of the 50 suspected cases, 32 women were included in the final analyses as neonaticide offenders. Most women (91%) had concealed their pregnancy, which was not the first for 66%. Most (66%) were not quite sure why they had offended, and the most frequent (63%) method of operation was neglect. Four women were diagnosed psychotic and formed a specific group. We concluded that there might be specific subgroups of offenders – even though our small population limited conclusions. Furthermore, prevention might be heightened. We call for international joint projects for enlarged material to enable grouping, as well as education and discussion among the public and the professionals to prevent neonaticide, unify its jurisprudence and improve the treatment of the offenders.

Keywords: Neonaticide; psychosis; motive; method of operation. 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. American Psychiatric Association1980Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 3rd edn (DSM-III)American Psychiatric AssociationWashington, DCGoogle Scholar
  2. American Psychiatric Association1987Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 3rd edn, revised (DSM-III-R)American Psychiatric AssociationWashington, DCGoogle Scholar
  3. Bonnet, C 1993Adoption at birth: prevention against abandonment or neonaticideChild Abuse Negl17501513PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brezinka, C, Huter, O, Biebl, W, Kinzl, J 1994Denial of pregnancy: obstetrical aspectsJ Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol1518PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Craig, M 2004Perinatal risk factors for neonaticide and infant homicide: can we identify those at risk?J R Soc Med975761PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Crimmins, S, Langley, S, Brownstein, HH, Spunt, B 1997Convicted women who have killed childrenJ Interpers Violence124969Google Scholar
  7. Eronen, M, Hakola, P, Tiihonen, J 1996Mental disorders and homicidal behavior in FinlandArch Gen Psychiatry53497501PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Ervasti, K 1995Barnamordsbrotten i Finland under 1800-taletHistorisk Tidskrift för Finland806484In SwedishGoogle Scholar
  9. Finnegan, P, McKinstry, E, Robinson, GE 1982Denial of pregnancy and childbirthCan J Psychiatry27672674PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Green, CM, Manohar, SV 1990Neonaticide and hysterical denial of pregnancyBr J Psychiatry156121123PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Haapasalo, J, Petäjä, S 1999Mothers who killed or attempted to kill their child: life circumstances, childhood abuse, and types of killingViolence Vict14219239PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Herman-Giddens, ME, Smith, JB, Mittal, M, Carlson, M, Butts, JD 2003Newborns killed or left to die by a parent: a population-based studyJAMA28914251429PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hirvonen, E 2000Pregnancy as a choice of an adolescent: an ethnographic study on pregnancy among adolescents under 18 years of age; the forthcoming parenthood, the circumstances in their life and visits to maternity clinicsTampere University PressTampere, Finland111114In Finnish, English summaryGoogle Scholar
  14. Kaye, NS, Borenstein, NM, Donnelly, SM 1990Families, murder, and insanity: a psychiatric review of paternal neonaticideJ Forensic Sci35133139PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Marks, MN 1996Characteristics and causes of infanticide in BritainInt Rev Psychiatry899106Google Scholar
  16. Marks, MN, Kumar, R 1993Infanticide in England and WalesMed Sci Law33329339PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Mendlowicz, MV, Rapaport, MH, Mecler, K, Golshan, S, Moraes, TM 1998A case-control study on the socio-demographic characteristics of 53 neonaticidal mothersInt J Law Psychiatry21209219PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and Health (2004) Parturients, births and newborn infants – preliminary data for 2003. Statistical summary 15/2004. National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and Health, Helsinki. Available at:
  19. The National Research Institute of Legal Policy (2005) Crime trends in Finland 2004. Publication number 215, Helsinki 20.6.2005.Google Scholar
  20. Oates, MR Cox, JL Neema, S Asten, P Glangeaud-Freudenthal, N Figueiredo, B Gorman, LL Hacking, S Hirst, E Kammerer, MH Klier, CM Seneviratne, G Smith, M Sutter-Dallay, AL Valoriani, V Wickberg, B Yoshida, K TCS-PND Group2004Postnatal depression across countries and cultures: a qualitative studyBr J Psychiatry461016CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Oberman, M 1996Mothers who kill: coming to terms with modern American infanticideAm Crim Law Rev341110Google Scholar
  22. Oberman, M 2003A brief history of infanticide and the lawSpinelli, MG eds. Infanticide: psychosocial and legal perspectives on mothers who killAmerican Psychiatric Publishing Inc.Washington DC318Google Scholar
  23. Overpeck, MD, Brenner, RA, Trumble, AC, Trifiletti, LB, Berendes, HW 1998Risk factors for infant homicide in the United StatesN Engl J Med33912111216PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Penal code 1889 and 578/1995 (2005) Suomen laki I [Finnish law I], Talentum Media Oy and Lakimiesliiton kustannus, Helsinki, Ri 101, Chapter 21, 4§.Google Scholar
  25. Pitt, SE, Bale, EM 1995Neonaticide, infanticide, and filicide: a review of the literatureBull Am Acad Psychiatry Law23375386PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Putkonen, H, Collander, J, Honkasalo, M-L, Lönnqvist, J 1998Finnish female homicide offenders 1982–92J Forens Psychiatry9672683Google Scholar
  27. Putkonen, H, Collander, J, Honkasalo, M-L, Lönnqvist, J 2001Personality disorders and psychoses form two distinct subgroups of homicide among female offendersJ Forens Psychiatry12300312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Putkonen, H, Komulainen, EJ, Virkkunen, M, Eronen, M, Lönnqvist, J 2003Risk of repeat offending among violent female offenders with psychotic and personality disordersAm J Psychiatry16015CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Resnick, PJ 1970Murder of the newborn: a psychiatric review of neonaticideAm J Psychiatry12614141420PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Sadoff, RL 1995Mothers who kill their childrenPsychiatr Ann25601605Google Scholar
  31. Slayton, IR, Soloff, PH 1981Psychotic denial of third-trimester pregnancyJ Clin Psychiatry42471473PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Spinelli, MG 2001A systematic investigation of 16 cases of neonaticideAm J Psychiatry158811813PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Spinelli, MG 2005Infanticide, contrasting viewsArch Womens Mental Health81524CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Statistics Finland2005Statistical yearbook of Finland 2005Karisto OyHämeenlinna, Finland126Google Scholar
  35. Statistics Finland (2006) Criminality 1980–2005 [database on the Internet] (Neonaticide is termed here as infanticide). Available at: Accessed April 12, 2006.
  36. Vallone, DC, Hoffman, LM 2003Preventing the tragedy of neonaticideHolistic Nurs Pract17223228Google Scholar
  37. Vanamo, T, Kauppi, A, Karkola, K, Merikanto, J, Räsänen, E 2000Intra-familial child homicide in Finland 1970–1994: incidence, causes of death and demographic characteristicsForensic Sci Int117199204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. World Health Organization1967The ICD-8 classification of mental and behavioural disordersWorld Health OrganizationGenevaGoogle Scholar
  39. World Health Organization1992The ICD-10 classification of mental and behavioural disordersWorld Health OrganizationGenevaGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Putkonen
    • 1
    • 2
  • G. Weizmann-Henelius
    • 1
  • J. Collander
    • 1
  • P. Santtila
    • 3
  • M. Eronen
    • 1
  1. 1.Vanha Vaasa HospitalVaasaFinland
  2. 2.Helsinki University Central HospitalHelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.Åbo AkademiÅboFinland

Personalised recommendations