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Filicide is the deliberate act of a parent killing their own child. The word filicide is derived from the Latin words filius and filia ('son' and 'daughter') and the suffix -cide, meaning to kill, murder, or cause death. The word can refer both to the crime and to the perpetrator of the crime.


A 1999 U.S. Department of Justice study concluded that mothers were responsible for a higher share of children killed during infancy between 1976 and 1997 in the United States, while fathers were more likely to have been responsible for the murders of children aged eight or older.[1] Parents were responsible for 61% of child murders under the age of five.[2] 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.[3]

An in-depth longitudinal study of 297 cases convicted of filicide and 45 of filicide-suicide in the United Kingdom between 1997 and 2006 showed that 37% of the perpetrators had a recorded mental illness at the time. The most common diagnoses were mood disorders and personality disorders rather than psychosis, but the latter accounted for 15% of cases. However - similar to findings in a large Danish study - the majority had not had contact with mental health services prior to the murders, and few had received treatment. Female perpetrators were more likely to have given birth as teenagers. Fathers were more likely to have been convicted of violent offences and have a history of substance misuse, and were more likely to kill multiple victims. Infants were more likely to be victims than older children, and a link to post-partum depression was suggested.[4]

Types of filicide[edit]

Dr. Phillip Resnick published research on filicide in 1969 and stated that there were five main motives for filicide, including "altruistic," "fatal maltreatment," "unwanted child," and "spousal revenge."[5] "Altruistic" killings occur because the parent believes that 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 2013, in the United States, homicide was in the top five causes of deaths of children, and in the top three causes of death in children between 1 and 4 years old.[7] A direct correlation has been identified between child abuse rates and child homicide rates. Research suggests that children who are murdered by their parents were physically abused victims prior to death.[8]

In fiction[edit]


  • In the show Inuyasha, the bat daiyōkai Taigokumaru killed his son Tsukuyomaru after he learned to protect his human wife Shizu's village.
  • In the third season episode of Family Guy, "Untitled Griffin Family History", Peter hits Meg with a baseball bat, the accusation being she startled him. In the episode, "Stewie Kills Lois" in the American adult animation television series Family Guy, Stewie successfully kills his mother, Lois before framing his father, Peter for the murder. Brian, the family dog discovers the murder and chastises Stewie. He nearly announces to Stewie's siblings Meg and Chris but they dismiss, due to Stewie being an infant. Peter is accused of killing Lois due to her life assurance being claimed while on the cruise that they were on together, which he admitted to his friends, police officer Joe, deli owner Cleveland and pilot/sex addict Quagmire, who they have arrested for the crime. As Peter is about to be sentenced, Lois arrives, and reveals Stewie was the one who "killed" her. She reveals that she was saved by a merman who attempted to reveal his affections to her, though she didn't reciprocate them. Lois, having amnesia, took a job at a summer camp for obese children in North Carolina. While at a diner, she met a new boyfriend, who was a white supremacist. While at a rally, she spoke out against him and received a blow in the head, which made her regain her memory, at which point she returned to Quahog, Rhode Island. As this occurs, Stewie escapes and is wanted by the police for murder. Joe goes to Bruce and Consuela to reveal the news. As Stewie keeps the Griffins hostage, Cleveland arrives and Stewie shoots him. He takes Brian hostage and takes over the CIA by defeating Stan Smith and keeping them hostage. Lois finds Stewie's weapons room, and puts on a ninja uniform and wields a gun and attempts to shoot Stewie, only for the latter to be shot by Peter. It is then revealed to be a simulation all along.
  • In the eighth season episode, "Dial Meg for Murder" of Family Guy, Meg goes to prison for harbouring a fugitive. After she is released, she gains a tough exterior and forces Peter to punch Stewie in the face, which he does enthusiastically.


  • In the Nintendo DS video game Inuyasha: Secret of the Divine Jewel, in 1000 AD Heian period, during the interruption of Tsugumi and Datara's wedding ceremony, after the cat half-demon Gorai, Lord of the Northern Lands forced Datara to wear the demon mask, Tsugumi use the Lightning Sealing Arrow to seal her husband and kill her demigod child from falling into the hands of the demon.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Greenfeld, Lawrence A.; Snell, Tracy L. (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 2018-05-29.
  2. ^ Friedman, S. H.; Horwitz, S. M.; Resnick, P. J. (2005). "Child murder by mothers: A critical analysis of the current state of knowledge and a research agenda". Am J Psychiatry. 162 (9): 1578–1587. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.162.9.1578. PMID 16135615.
  3. ^ USA Today. Parents who do the unthinkable -- kill their children
  4. ^ "Findings from most in-depth study into UK parents who kill their children". University of Manchester. 5 April 2013. Retrieved 26 February 2020.
  5. ^ a b "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". Aggression and Violent Behavior. 29: 30–35. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2016.05.007.
  7. ^[bare URL PDF]
  8. ^ Holmes, Ronald M.; Holmes, Stephen T. (2001). Murder in America. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, Inc. p. 116.

Further reading[edit]

  • Douglas, John; Olshaker, Mark (1996). Journey Into Darkness. United Kingdom: Arrow Books. ISBN 978-0-749-32394-3.
  • Meyer, Cheryl; Oberman, Michelle; White, Kelly (2001). Mothers who Kill Their Children. New York University Press. ISBN 0-814-75643-3
  • Rascovsky, Arnaldo (1995). Filicide: The Murder, Humiliation, Mutilation, Denigration, and Abandonment of Children by Parents. Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson Incorporated. ISBN 978-1-568-21456-6.

External links[edit]