Mental disorders of male parricidal offenders

A study of offenders in forensic psychiatric examination in Finland during 1973–2004

Abstract

Background

Information on parricidal offenders is mainly derived from selective samples of hospitalized patients. According to literature, a substantial proportion of parricidal offenders suffers from major mental disorders and is found to be not guilty by reason of insanity. The aim of this study was to examine and compare diagnoses and criminal responsibilities of matricidal and patricidal offenders in detail using a comprehensive national data set.

Method

Forensic psychiatric examination statements of 86 matricidal and 106 patricidal male offenders evaluated in a forensic psychiatric examination during 1973–2004 in Finland were reviewed retrospectively.

Results

Matricidal offenders suffered more commonly from a psychotic disorder than did patricidal offenders, whereas a greater proportion of patricidal offenders had a personality disorder. Among schizophrenic offenders the paranoid subtype was more common in the group of matricidal offenders than in the group of patricidal offenders. Of personality disorders, borderline personality disorder was more frequently found among patricidal offenders than among matricidal offenders. Matricidal offenders were more commonly found not guilty by reason of insanity than patricidal offenders. For matricidal offences the most common motive was a mental disorder, whereas patricidal offences were most often motivated by a long-term conflict. In addition, patricidal acts were more likely to be preceded by threat by the victim than matricidal acts.

Conclusions

This study supports the hypothesis that matricidal offenders suffer from psychotic disorders more often than patricidal offenders, even though both groups seem to be characterized by a high level of psychopathology. Rarely reported in the literature, personality disorders show up frequently among parricidal offenders, particularly among patricidal offenders. Recognition and treatment of mental disorders underlying parricidal acts may prevent these offences, at least in some cases.

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Correspondence to Anu Liettu MD.

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Liettu, A., Säävälä, H., Hakko, H. et al. Mental disorders of male parricidal offenders. Soc Psychiat Epidemiol 44, 96 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-008-0419-9

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Keywords

  • parricide
  • matricide
  • patricide
  • criminal responsibility
  • mental disorders