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Filicidio (murder of the own children): its 5 types and motivations

Filicidio (murder of the own children): its 5 types and motivations

March 19, 2023

Our children are probably the people that most of us most want. These are fragile creatures that we have seen born, that have needed and conquered us from the moment they came to the world and for whom we would give everything. Protecting the offspring is something natural for most human beings and for many other animals, often many parents come to risk or sacrifice their own life to protect them.

And not only on a biological level: our culture also puts the family and the protection and care of this and especially of the offspring as one of the most important institutions. That is why cases like Breton, who murdered his two children, have shocked society. We are talking about one of the most mediatic cases of filicide in recent times. Y is about this type of crime, filicide, about which we are going to talk throughout this article.

  • Related article: "The 11 types of violence (and the different kinds of aggression)"

Filicide: the murder of one's children

It is known as filicide the murder of one's own offspring at the hands of one or both parents , regardless of the mobile of said action or the methodology used for it. The context in which said murder or homicide occurs can be very variable, being able to appear from puerperal psychoses to the presence of domestic violence or the use of the minor as an object to harm the other member of the couple.

With regard to the victims, although the filicide does not refer to the age of the victim, as a general rule, children who are less than six months of age have a greater risk of suffering lethal violence from their parents. With respect to sex, in the western society no differences have been detected in this respect.

It is a crime that most of society considers the least abject and unnatural and that is usually seen as infrequent, but although it is not usual unfortunately occurs in greater proportion than it seems at first glance. In fact, the filicide is one of the types of crime that generates the most unnatural deaths of children , being a great majority of violent deaths of minors caused by the parents themselves (the percentage of violent deaths of children by people outside the family is around 25%).

We are facing a very serious crime of blood harshly punished by law , not only to the fact of killing a person voluntarily but because of the aggravating circumstance that this is carried out by someone related to the victim, abusing the trust and the victim's attachment to the murderer.

In addition, in many cases we are facing a murder in which there was a relationship of dependency and a big difference in the power relations between both , abusing the difference in physical strength or superiority in age, experience and dynamics of power and dependence for the sustenance and even survival of the victim towards his executioner.

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Filicide or infanticide? Differences

The truth is that although the concept is easily understandable the term filicide is not as well known among the general population, being much more common the use of the term infanticide for this type of crime. However, the truth is that although a filicide can be an infanticide, it is not synonymous concepts but have clear differences between them.

First of all, while infanticide talks about the causation of the death of a child by an adult, to speak of filicide implies that the author of said death is one of the person who maintains a filial relationship with the minor : one of the parents.

One aspect that we also have to take into account is that when we think of filicide we usually think that the murdered person is a boy or a girl, but the truth is that the concept actually refers to the intentional provocation of the death of a child or daughter regardless of this one's age.

What are the motivations that filicides usually have?

It is difficult to imagine what can motivate a person to actively provoke the death of one or more of their own children. However, some authors such as Resnick have tried to make a general classification of the reasons that have manifested in different cases. The research carried out reflected the following categories or types of filicide .

1. Altruistic filicide

This type of filicide usually occurs when the child has some type of medical condition that makes or is considered that it will make you suffer all your life, or you suffer from some type of terminal illness. It is about causing the death of the son or daughter as a method of avoiding suffering .

Another subtype of filicide considered altruistic by the person who carries it out is that which is directly linked to the suicide of the aggressor himself. The father or mother intends to commit suicide and believes that their children will not be able to live or that it would be unfair to abandon them, preferring to kill them before making them face the situation.

2. Generated by psychosis or mental illness

Although the consideration that the people who perform this type of act are people with mental disorders is unreal, the truth is that in some cases they are given filicides in the context of mental illness. An example is during some type of psychotic outbreak, in the context of hallucinations or delusions in which the child is confused with a possible enemy, persecutor, murderer, alien or demon. Another option is that it is in women with postpartum depression, being of special risk the first days.

3. Unwanted child

This type of filicide is motivated by the fact that the child in question was unwanted by the parents or by one of them, or by not being able to take care of the child. Technically some authors consider abortion as such, although filicide is usually reserved for children already born. A less dubious and controversial and more direct example is the one that occurs for neglect of the needs of the child or abandonment of this .

4. Accidental filicide

It is considered as such the filicide that was not intended to cause the death of the child in question, but ends up leading to it. It is frequent in the context of intrafamily abuse or vicarious violence to break the will of the couple in the case of gender violence. It can also happen in the context of a fight.

5. Filicide for revenge or utilitarian

The death of the child is used as an instrument of torture and revenge, usually to harm the couple for some kind of damage or rejection. It is a type of vicarious violence directed not so much towards the minor himself (his death is for the aggressor the least) but with the causation of harm to another person .

The filicida: habitual characteristics

The fact of killing a child is not something, as we have said before, frequent. However, there are certain circumstances and characteristics that can facilitate the commission of this type of acts.

Among them it has been observed that many of the cases of filicide occur in people with diminished capacity for motherhood or fatherhood . In some cases there has been a deprivation of affection in the parent's own childhood, living the parent-child relationship as something negative in which there has been no love and possibly some kind of abuse.

Other possible risk factors are found with young mothers and fathers, whose first child appears before the age of 19, and with few economic and social resources. Finally another distinct profile includes the presence of sadistic and psychopathic characteristics, lack of emotional attachment to the child and use of this as an instrument to manipulate, control or attack the other (this last profile also corresponds to that of the abuser).

Bibliographic references:

  • Company, A., Pajon, L., Romo, J. & Soria, M. Á. (2015). Filicidio, infanticidio and neonaticidio: descriptive study of the situation in Spain between the years 2000-2010. Criminality Magazine, 57 (3): 91-102.
  • González, D. & Muñoz-Rivas, M. (2003). Filicidio and neonaticidio: A review. Legal and Forensic Clinical Psychopathology, 3 (2): 91-106.
  • Kalinsky, B. (2007). The Filicide. Some conceptual collections. Nomads Critical Magazine of Social and Legal Sciences, 16 (2).
  • Resnick, P.J. (1970). Murder of the newborn: a psychiatric review of neonaticide. Am J Psychiatry, 126 (10): 58-64.

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