Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 351–358 | Cite as

The Nature and Prevalence of Familicide in the United States, 2000–2009

  • Marieke LiemEmail author
  • Jack Levin
  • Curtis Holland
  • James A. Fox


Familicide refers to the killing of multiple family members, most commonly the homicide of an intimate partner and at least one child. This study examines the prevalence of familicide in the United States. Second, it explores the relationship between the prevalence of familicide and the prevalence of financial problems in the United States by making use of Supplementary Homicide Reports data and newspaper reports. In the period of 2000–2009, familicide involving an intimate partner and child(ren) occurred approximately 23 times per year. The majority of the perpetrators were male, who committed the offense with a firearm. Familicides involving an intimate partner and child(ren) with financial motives alone occurred 4 to 5 times per year. The results showed that the association between familicide and financial problems is not a straightforward one. Even though correlational analyses suggest a relationship between the two, the prevalence of familicide motivated by financial problems was unrelated to periods of financial downfall. Directions for future research are discussed.


Familicide Family homicide Multiple homicide Intimate partner homicide Child homicide United States Financial crisis 


  1. Aderibigbe, Y. A. (1997). Violence in America: a survey of suicide linked to homicides. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 42, 662–665.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Alder, C. M., & Polk, K. (2001). Child victims of homicide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, A., Sisask, M., & Värnik, A. (2010). Familicide and suicide in a case of gambling dependence. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 22, 156–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2011). Employment status of the civilian noninstitutional population, 1942 to date. Washington, DC: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.Google Scholar
  5. Byard, R., Knight, D., James, R. A., & Gilbert, J. (1999). Murder-suicides involving children: a 29-year study. The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 20, 232–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cavanagh, J. T. O., Carson, A. J., Sharpe, M., & Lawrie, S. M. (2003). Psychological autopsy studies of suicide: a systematic review. Psychological Medicine, 33, 395–405.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Census Bureau, U. S. (2003). Domestic migration across regions, divisions, and states: 1995 to 2000. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce.Google Scholar
  8. Cohen, D. A. (1995). Homicidal compulsion and the conditions of freedom: the social and psychological origins of familicide in America’s early republic. Journal of Social History, 28, 725–764.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cooper, M., & Eaves, D. (1996). Suicide following homicide in the family. Violence and Victims, 11, 99–112.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Danson, L., & Soothill, K. (1996a). Child murder and the media: a study of the reporting of child murder in The Times (1887–1990). Journal of Forensic Psychiatry, 7, 495–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Danson, L., & Soothill, K. (1996b). Murder followed by suicide: a study of the reporting of murder followed by suicide in The Times (1887–1990). Journal of Forensic Psychiatry, 7, 310–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dietz, P. E. (1986). Mass, serial and sensational homicides. Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 62: 477–491.Google Scholar
  13. Ewing, C. P. (1997). Fatal families. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  14. Fox, J. A. (2004). Missing data problems in the SHR: imputing offender and relationship characteristics. Homicide Studies, 8, 214–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fox, J. A., & Levin, J. (2005). Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  16. Fox, J. A., & Levin, J. (2011). Extreme killing: Understanding serial and mass murder. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  17. Fox, J. A., Levin, J., & Quinet, K. (2011). The will to kill. Boston: Pearson.Google Scholar
  18. Frazier, S. H. (1975). Violence and social impact. In J. C. Schoolar & C. M. Gaitz (Eds.), Research and the psychiatric patient (pp. 191–200). New York: Brunner & Mazel.Google Scholar
  19. Friedman, S., Hrouda, D. R., Holden, C. E., Noffsinger, S. G., & Resnick, P. J. (2005). Filicide-suicide: common factors in parents who kill their children and themselves. The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 33, 496–504.Google Scholar
  20. Goldney, R. D. (1977). Family murder followed by suicide. Forensic Science International, 3, 219–228.Google Scholar
  21. Kaplan, M. S., & Geling, O. (1998). Firearm suicides and homicides in the United States: regional variations and patterns of gun ownership. Social Science & Medicine, 46, 1227–1233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Koziol-McLain, J., Webster, D., McFarlane, J., Block, C. R., Ulrich, Y., Glass, N., et al. (2006). Risk factors for femicide-suicide in abusive relationships: results from a multisite study. Violence and Victims, 21, 3–21.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Leveillee, S., Lefebvre, J., & Marleau, J. D. (2009). Profil psychosocial des familicides commis au Quebec - 1986 a 2000. Annales Médico-psychologiques, Revue Psychiatrique, 167, 591–596.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Levitt, S. D. (2004). Why crime fell in the 1990s: four factors that explain the decline and six that do not. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 18, 163–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Liem, M., & Koenraadt, F. (2007). Homicide-suicide in the Netherlands: a study of newspaper Reports, 1992–2005. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 18(4), 482–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Liem, M., & Koenraadt, F. (2008). Familicide: a comparison with spousal and child homicide by mentally disordered perpetrators. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, 18, 306–318.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Liem, M., Postulart, M., & Nieuwbeerta, P. (2009). Homicide-suicide in the Netherlands: an epidemiology. Homicide Studies, 13, 99–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Malmquist, C. P. (1980). Psychiatric aspects of familicide. The Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 8, 298–304.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Malphurs, J., & Cohen, D. (2002). A newspaper surveillance study of homicide-suicide in the United States. The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 23, 142–148.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Marleau, J. D., Poulin, B., Webanck, T., Roy, R., & Laporte, L. (1999). Paternal filicide: a study of 10 men. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 44, 57–63.Google Scholar
  31. Polk, K. (1994). When men kill: Scenarios of masculine violence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Rosenfeld, R., & Messner, S. F. (2009). The crime drop in comparative perspective: the impact of the economy and imprisonment on American and European burglary rates. The British Journal of Sociology, 60, 445–471.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Scheinin, L., Rogers, C. B., & Sathyavagiswaran, L. (2011). Familicide-suicide. A cluster of 3 cases in Los Angeles County. The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 32, 327–330.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Schlesinger, L. B. (2000). Familicide, depression and catathymic process. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 45, 200–203.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Sisask, M., Mark, L., & Värnik, A. (2012). Internet comments elicited by media portrayal of a familicide-suicide case. Crisis, 1, 1–8.Google Scholar
  36. Somander, L. K. H., & Rammer, L. M. (1991). Intra- and extrafamilial child homicide in Sweden 1971–1980. Child Abuse & Neglect, 15, 45–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Websdale, N. (1999). Understanding domestic homicide. Boston: Northeastern University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Websdale, N. (2010). Familicidal hearts. The emotional styles of 211 killers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wilson, M., Daly, M., & Daniele, A. (1995). Familicide: the killing of spouse and children. Aggressive Behavior, 21, 275–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marieke Liem
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jack Levin
    • 2
  • Curtis Holland
    • 1
  • James A. Fox
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Criminology and Criminal JusticeNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA

Personalised recommendations