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SOC 2760 (121)
Rob Shearer (108)
Chapter 10

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SOC 2760
Rob Shearer

Chapter 10: Child Murder and Infanticide Intro  Amber alert began in 1996 and notify us of missing children  Reality of child homicide is that far more children are killed by their family members than by strangers  Average of 2000 children murdered in period of 1 year in United States History  During 17 and 18 century in France, fathers decided whether children lived or died  1741 Thomas Coram established a home to provide refuge for infants and young children cast away by their mothers  Now and in the past, women killed their babies because of stigma associated with having babies out of wedlock o Babies also sacrificed for religious reasons o Method of population control o Parents could not afford to raise them o At different times, acceptable to kill children with birth defects or who are female (ex, in China males are valued more)  Throughout time, children are killed at hands of both family members and strangers as a result of abuse and negligence  Parents have even killed children as a way to hurt the child’s other parent Official data on child homicide  Children make up 10% to 20% of homicide victims in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, and US  Estimated 6 children killed each day in US  Homicide rate for children (younger than 15) 5x higher in US than other 25 countries combined (high income countries)  The number of homicides of children in some South American countries is far worse than it is in the US Types of child killing  Neonaticide – murder of newborn within first 24 hours of his or her life o Ex) Holly Ashcroft  Typical in that she was young and single, appears to have concealed her pregnancy, appeared to have given birth alone, and the father of baby is absent  Death relatively nonviolent, baby died of exposure o Strangulation or suffocation most common methods of killing baby within first 24 hours  Head trauma, drowning, exposure, and stabbing next common o Risk factors include: low birth weight baby, late or no prenatal care, social and economic stresses, lack of formal education o Far from uncommon – LA police report 5-8 newborns are found each year o States have developed laws to allow young women to leave newborns at fire stations, police stations, hospitals without penalties, to reduce occurrence of neonaticide  Btwn 2001 and 2004, 18 babies were turned over in Michigan  Btwn 2001 – 2005 in California, 35 infants were left at hospitals and fire stations  Infanticide – killing an infant child who is less than 1 year old o Homicide ranks 15 on list of leading causes for children in US st o Risk for homicide is greater for a child in his or her 1 year of life than any other year of life before age 17, even more so during first 4 months of childs life o First day of life = 10x greater risk than any other day – 7.3% o In UK and Australia, infanticide defined as a crime committed by the mother during first 12 months of her infants life  A father by definition cannot commit infanticide in these countries o In the US, infanticide is not necessarily a crime apart from homicide and referes to the killing of infants without regard to who the offender is or how they may be related to the victim  Infants likely to be killed by mother up until they are a week old and then they are more likely to be killed by male (father or step father)  Prolicide – killing of one’s offspring and includes both infanticide and killing of fetus in utero  Filicide – killing of one’s own child (includes stepchildren) and this could include killing of adult child o But more frequently it refers to killing of a minor child, and thus could include both neoanticides and infanticides  Children in US more likely to be killed by parents o From 1976-200, 61% homicide victims under 5 killed by parents, 23% acquaintances, 6% other relatives, 3% strangers  If we consider children under 5 yo, fathers (incl. stepfathers) make up a slightly higher percentage of killers than mothers/stepmothers (31 vs. 30%)  Mothers commit neoanticide more frequently than fathers o Data from Chicago 1965-1995 o 1.3% both, 32% fathers, 44% mothers – infants o 1.3% both, 20% fathers, 21% mothers – toddlers/preschoolers  Australia – biological mothers more likely to kill their children than biological fathers o Focus on children under 1 yo, 55.8% killed by father  Canada – equally likely to be killed by mother or father under 1yo  Fiji – biological mothers 75% of perpetrator  Canadian data states that stepchildren (while not necessarily killed more) are overrepresented among child victims  Familicide – killing of whole family (spouse and children) o Often used to determine a multivictim homicide in which the offender kills his/her spouse or former spouse and at least one or more of either of their children o Uncommon for men and almost unheard of for women o Percentage of children killed by gunshot is higher in familicides than nonfamilicide incidents Filicide-Suicide  Parents kill children followed by suicide (filicide-suicide)  Share commonalities regardless of whether mother or father murderer o More likely to be committed by biological parent than step o Children/child usually older than in filicide cases o Parents who kill more than one of their children more likely to commit suicide than those who kill only one  Differences o Fathers who commit filicide-suicide do so within context of separation or child custody disagreement o Mothers commit filicide-suicide tend to do so because they fear children will have no one to care for them once they commit suicide  Suicidal filicide mothers more likely to get psychiatric treatment than fathers o Fathers who kill children and themselves more likely to kill spouses as well – called familicide o Women least likely to commit familicide  Parent-child suicide in Japan (box p. 167) Weapon Use: How are children murdered?  Victims under 5 most likely to be killed by personal weapons (hands, feet or fists)  As children ages weapons change o Weapons used to kill children 5-8 most commonly guns (29.3%) o 9 and older most common weapon of death was firearm, and as age increases so foes the percentage killed with firearms o 9-12 - 46.3% death by firearms o 13-16 – 74.8% death by firearms o 17-19 – 80.8% death by firearms Killing Times and Seasons: When Are Children Killed?  Peak time for child homicide different than peak time for adults o Child homicide higher during daytime hours compared to nighttime o Peak on weekdays rather than weekends  Adult peaks in summer, child rates vary by age  Winter has higher homicide rates for children under 2 years o Winter months may be more stressful for parents  Homicide rate for children aged 5-14 higher in summer o School aged children out of school in summer therefore more opportunity to be victimized by both strangers and family members Age, Sex, and Race: Who is killed?  Age o Older teens at greater risk for homicide (17-19) o Very young children age birth to four next to teens in most likely risk for homicide (birth-4) o Elementary school children at least risk (5-12)  Sex o Rate of homicide does not differ significantly for boys and girls at younger ages o In teenage years:  Boys make up 79% of youngsters killed ages 13-16 and 87% ages 17-19  Likely killed by other young male adolescents o School aged girls more likely to be victims in sexually motivated abduction homicides o In 2002, 669 boys ages 13-17 victims of homicide (3 most common cause o
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