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Child Abuse Negl. 2011 May;35(5):319-28. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2011.01.007.

Gender differences in filicide offense characteristics--a comprehensive register-based study of child murder in two European countries.

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Vanha Vaasa Hospital, Vaasa, Finland.



This study searched for gender differences in filicidal offense characteristics and associated variables.


In this bi-national register-based study all filicide perpetrators (75 mothers and 45 fathers) and their crimes in Austria and Finland 1995-2005 were examined for putative gender differences. The assessed variables were associated with the offense characteristics, the offenders' socioeconomic and criminal history, and related stressful events.


Mothers had previously committed violent offenses less often than fathers (5% vs. 28%, p<0.001) and they were less often employed (27% vs. 49%, p<0.05). Mothers' victims were on average younger than those of fathers; median ages of the victims were 3.4 and 6.1 years, respectively (p<0.001). Fathers were more often intoxicated during the offense (11% vs. 42%, p<0.001) and also used shooting as the method of operation more often than mothers (5% vs. 27%, p<0.001). Mothers used drowning, criminal negligence, and poisoning more often than fathers. Fathers' motives were more impulsive in nature (13% vs. 41%, p<0.001). After the killing, mothers tried to get rid of the body more often than fathers (25% vs. 7%, p<0.05).


Fathers who commit filicide may represent at least two subgroups, the one not unlike the common homicide offender; the other, the overloaded, working and suicidal father. Mothers may include several types of offenders, one of which is the neonaticide offender. More detailed descriptions and, therefore, more research are needed.


Distressed parents and families need support and health care personnel, social work and other officials need to be alert to notice fatigued parents' signs of despair, especially when several stressful experiences amass. Straightforward enquiry to the situation and even practical and psychological help may be needed for enhanced protection of children. The role of employers should also be discussed in relation to the welfare of working parents.

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