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For animals, see Infanticide (zoology).
Ivan the Terrible and his son Ivan on November 16th, 1581., a painting of the filicide by Ilya Yefimovich Repin.

Filicide is the deliberate act of a parent killing his or her own child. The word filicide derives from the Latin words filius meaning "son" or filia meaning daughter, and the suffix -cide meaning to kill, murder, or cause death. "A filicide" may refer both to the parent who killed his or her child, as well as to the criminal act that the parent committed.


A September 2014 report by UNICEF found that the three countries in the world with the highest rates of homicide of children and adolescents were (in descending order): El Salvador, Guatemala and Venezuela. The report also found that: "Among the 10 countries with the largest numbers of homicide victims, Nigeria has the most, with almost 13,000 deaths, followed by Brazil with approximately 11,000."[1]

A 1999 United States Department of Justice study concluded that between 1976 and 1997 in the United States, mothers were responsible for a higher share of children killed during infancy, while fathers were more likely to have been responsible for the murders of children age 8 or older.[2]

Furthermore, 52% of the children killed by their mothers (maternal filicide) were male, while 57% of the children killed by their fathers (paternal filicide) were male. Parents were responsible for 61% of child murders under the age of five.[3] Sometimes, there is a combination of murder and suicide in filicide cases. On average, according to FBI statistics, 450 children are murdered by their parents each year in the United States .[4]

Types of filicide[edit]

Dr. Phillip Resnick, who published research on filicide in 1969, stated that there were five main motives for filicide, including "altruistic," "fatal maltreatment," "unwanted child," and "spousal revenge." Altruistic killings occur because the parent believes the world is too cruel for the child or because the child is enduring suffering (whether this is actually occurring or not). In fatal maltreatment killings, the goal is not always to kill the child but death may occur anyway, and Munchausen syndrome by proxy is in that category. Spousal revenge killings are killings of children done to indirectly harm a domestic partner; they do not frequently occur.[5] Glen Carruthers, author of "Making sense of spousal revenge filicide," argued that those who engage in spousal revenge killings see their own children as objects.[6]

Children at risk[edit]

In the United States, homicide is in the top five causes of deaths of children, and in the top three causes of death in children aged between 1 and 4 years old.[7] A direct correlation has been identified between child abuse rates and child homicide rates. Research suggests children who are murdered by their parent(s) were physically abused victims prior to death. This is often seen as an indicator of domestic violence.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hidden in Plain Sight: A Statistical Analysis of Violence Against Children, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Division of Data, Research and Policy (September 2014).
  2. ^ Greenfeld, Lawrence A.; Snell, Tracy L. (1999-02-12, updated 2000-03-10). "Women Offenders" (PDF). NCJ 175688. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-03. Retrieved 2011-07-08.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ Friedman, S., H., M.D., Horwitz, S., M., Ph.D., and Resnick, P., J., M.D.. (2005). Child murder by mothers: A critical analysis of the current state of knowledge and a research agenda. Am J Psychiatry 162:1578-1587 [1]
  4. ^ USA Today. Parents who do the unthinkable -- kill their children
  5. ^ "Spousal revenge rare motive for killing kids, experts say". CTV News. 2010-11-16. Retrieved 2017-01-25. 
  6. ^ Carruthers, Glen (July–August 2016). "Making sense of spousal revenge filicide". 29. Aggression and Violent Behavior: 30–35. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Holmes, Ronald M.; Holmes, Stephen T. (2001). Murder in America. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, Inc. p. 116. 

External links[edit]