Familicide: a comparison with spousal and child homicide by mentally disordered perpetrators

Crim Behav Ment Health. 2008;18(5):306-18. doi: 10.1002/cbm.710.


Background: Familicides, the killings of multiple family members, are believed to constitute an overlap between child homicide (filicide) and intimate partner homicide (uxoricide).

Aim: The aim of this paper was to examine and compare the socio-demographic, contextual and psychopathological factors of familicide perpetrators with factors of filicide and uxoricide perpetrators.

Methods: Data were extracted from files in a forensic psychiatric observation hospital in Utrecht, The Netherlands, for the years 1953-2006. The sample of 536 persons was identified in one of the three categories of interest; 23 were accused of familicide, 133 of filicide and 380 of uxoricide.

Results: Familicide perpetrators are more likely than filicide perpetrators to be male, to be older, to be more educated and to commit the offence with physical violence. They are more likely than uxoricide perpetrators to be married, less likely to have committed a previous violent offence but more likely to suffer from a personality disorder and more likely to attempt suicide following the homicide.

Conclusion: Although similarities exist between the three groups under study, those accused of familicide cannot be equated with those accused of filicide or uxoricide. The finding that a large majority of the perpetrators were mentally ill at the time and that many killed when faced with divorce and/or custody over the child(ren) may suggest that increased monitoring of this group might have preventative value.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Crime Victims / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Homicide / prevention & control
  • Homicide / psychology*
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Motivation
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Nuclear Family*
  • Parents
  • Personality Disorders / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spouses
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data