Familicide

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A familicide is a type of murder or murder-suicide in which at least one spouse and one or more children are killed;[1] or in which a parent or parents and possibly other relatives such as siblings and grandparents are killed.[2] In some cases all of the family members' lives are taken. If only the parents are killed, the case may also be referred to as a parricide. Where all members of a family are killed, including when the killing takes the form of a murder-suicide, the crime may be referred to as family annihilation.

Familicide of others[edit]

Familicides were used as an enhanced punishment in antiquity[citation needed] and by criminals[citation needed]. It is not incorporated formally into modern judicial systems. Further, destruction of the family may be used as a method of securing power after regime change, and was advocated by Machiavelli.[citation needed]

Family annihilation[edit]

Definition and statistics[edit]

Of 909 victims of mass murder (defined as 4 victims within a 24-hour period) in the US from 1900 to 2000, more than half occurred within an immediate family. Although the total number of familicide cases are relatively rare, they are the most common form of mass killings. However, statistical data is difficult to establish due to reporting discrepancies.[3]

Familicide differs from other forms of mass murder in that the murderer kills family members or loved ones rather than anonymous people. This has a different psychodynamic and psychiatric significance, but the distinction is not always made.[4]

A study of 30 cases in Ohio found that most of the killings were motivated by a parent's desire to stop their children's suffering.[3]

In Australia, a study was done of seven cases of filicide followed by suicide in which marital separation followed by custody and access disputes were identified as an issue. Some common factors such as marital discord, unhappiness, domestic violence, sexual abuse, threats of harm to self or others were found in varying degrees. It was not clear what could be done in terms of prevention.[5]

Narrative[edit]

The internal logic for family annihilation can stem from a number of sources.

David Wilson of Birmingham City University has divided these cases into four groups: anomic, disappointed, self-righteous and paranoid.

In this typology, the anomic killer sees his family purely as a status symbol; when his economic status collapses, he sees them as surplus to requirements. The disappointed killer seeks to punish the family for not living up to his ideals of family life. The self-righteous killer destroys the family to exact revenge upon the mother, in an act that he blames on her. Finally, the paranoid killer kills their family in what they imagine to be an attempt to protect them from something even worse.[6]

Notable familicides[edit]

See also List of familicides

Artistic depiction[edit]

Family annihilation is depicted in the following media:

Related terms[edit]

  • Filicide - A parent or parents killing their own child or children.
  • Infanticide - The killing of one's child (or children) up to 12 months of age.
  • Mariticide - The killing of a husband by a wife, but commonly used for either spouse.
  • Uxoricide - The killing of a wife by a husband.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wilson, M., Daly, M. & Daniele, A. (1995). "Familicide: The Killing of Spouse and Children". Aggressive Behavior 21: 275–291. doi:10.1002/1098-2337(1995)21:4<275::aid-ab2480210404>3.0.co;2-s. 
  2. ^ Familicide at Wiktionary.
  3. ^ a b Berton, Justin. Familicide: Experts say family murder-suicides, though rare, are most common mass killing. San Francisco Examiner, June 20, 2007
  4. ^ Malmquist, Carl P., MD. Homicide: A Psychiatric Perspective. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing, 1996, ISBN 978-0-88048-690-3
  5. ^ Johnson, Carolyn. Familicide and Custody Disputes - Dispelling The Myths. University of Western Australia, FamilicideAbstract_CarolynJohnson.pdf
  6. ^ Melissa Hogenboom (15 August 2013). "Criminologists identify family killer characteristics". BBC News. 

External links[edit]