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Filicide is the deliberate act of a parent killing his or her own son or daughter. The term can also be applied to the parent who has committed such an act. The word filicide derives from the Latin word filius meaning "son".
In some cultures, killing a daughter who is deemed to have disgraced the family is a common occurrence (see honor killing).
A 1999 US Department of Justice Study concluded that between 1976 and 1997 in the U.S., mothers were responsible for a higher share of children killed during infancy while fathers were more likely to have been responsible for the murders of children age 8 or older. Furthermore, 52% of the children killed by their mothers were male (maternal filicide), while 57% of the children killed by their fathers were male (paternal filicide).
Sometimes there is a combination of murder and suicide in filicide cases.
A number of academics attribute it, both modern and historical, to psychological inability to raise children. Contemporary data suggests that modern filicide is sometimes brought about by a psychological unreadiness to raise children.[How to reference and link to summary or text] It could also be exacerbated by schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. It is also attributed, in some cases, to the desire of unwed, underage parents to conceal their sexual relations and/or avoid the responsibility of childrearing.[How to reference and link to summary or text] It is attributed in other cases to a strong feeling of alienation or genetic disaffection; in such cases other children are not thought to be at risk and the mother often takes on a new role in child care [How to reference and link to summary or text].
Known or suspected filicides
- Ivan IV of Russia (Ivan the Terrible) killed his son and heir to the throne in a fit of rage.
- Peter the Great of Russia had his son tortured to death, being present at several of the torture sessions and allegedly participating in some of them.
- Josef and Magda Goebbels poisoned their six children, in order to protect them from the invading Soviet Army, before committing suicide.
- Ptolemy XII of Egypt had his daughter Berenice IV and her husband beheaded in 55 BC. This was after she had dethroned him and poisoned her sister, Cleopatra VI.
- Professional wrestler Chris Benoit killed his seven year old son Daniel, along with his wife and himself, on June 23, 2007.
Filicides in myth and fiction
- Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare - Title character kills his daughter Lavinia. This is an attempt to restore her honor after she was raped, her hands were amputated, and her tongue cut out. Titus previously kills her attackers (then apparently puts pieces of the men's dead bodies into a pie that he serves their mother), marking this play as Shakespeare's most gruesome.
- La Llorona (The Weeping Woman) - This Hispanic American folktale tells of a woman, Maria, whose husband is unfaithful. In her rage, she throws their children into the river, where they are drowned.
- In the Medea of Euripides, Medea kills her children, in retaliation for being abandoned by her husband, Jason.
- In The Bacchae, also by Euripides, Agave kills her son Pentheus while possessed by Dionysus.
- Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter, Iphigeneia, to the goddess Artemis in Aeschylus' The Oresteia and in Euripides' Iphigeneia at Aulis.
- Orchamus, a king in Greek mythology ordered his daughter Leucothea buried alive upon learning that she was in love with Apollo.
- In the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology, Cuchulainn unwittingly kills his son Conlaoch when Conlaoch arrives in Ulster and, under a geis from his mother, the warrior queen Aoife, refuses to give his name to the king. Cuchulainn recognizes his son by a golden ring only after he inflicts a mortal wound with his magical spear, the Gae Bolga.
- Hercules of Greek Mythology killed his wife and children in a fit of rage induced by Hera
- Prolicide is the killing of offspring.
- Infanticide is the killing of an infant from birth to 12 months.
- Patricide and matricide are the converse of filicide: the killing of a parent by his or her child.
- Fratricide and sororicide refer to the killing of one's sibling.
And as for non-familial killing terms from the same root:
- Homicide is the killing of a human.
- Genocide is the killing of an ethnic, religious or national group.
- Suicide is the killing of oneself.
- Uxoricide is the killing of one's wife.
Also consider filial cruelty (cruelty toward one's own child), child cruelty (cruelty toward an unrelated child), and child murder (the murder of a child in general).
- Lists of people by cause of death
- Classifications and Descriptions of Parents Who Commit Filicide (PDF)
- Filicide Education and Prevention Association
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