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Analysis: 32 years of US filicide arrests
Date:2/25/2014

victims. Parents used these means in 69 percent of murders of infants. As victims aged, firearms were more common, becoming the weapon used in 72.3 percent of the cases in which the victim as an adult. Men were much more likely to use guns than women. Across the board, parents rarely used contact weapons (such as a bat) or edged weapons (such as a knife). While stepparents weren't overrepresented in the study, they were twice as likely as biological parents to use guns to (40 percent vs. 21 percent).

Biological underpinnings

Before Mariano worked with Myers and Chan to analyze the Supplementary Homicide Reports data, he had begun studying filicide while on a psychiatry rotation in medical school at Case Western Reserve University. There he had been reviewing the scientific literature on animal models of filicide. That published work, combined with studies of people and trends in the arrest statistics, offers a way for mental health professionals to develop hypotheses about the causes of filicide, he said.

In the current paper, Mariano synthesizes three main hypotheses about these underlying motives. One is that at least some parents who commit filicide have mental illness that derives from low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Not only is that borne out in some animal studies, but the most typical ages of filicidal parents in the SHR data (18-30 years) are also the age at which many serotonin-related illnesses occur, like depression and schizophrenia.

Looking at the substantial differences that gender appears to make in the SHR data, a second hypothesis focuses on sex hormones. High levels of testosterone appear to coincide with higher rates of filicide in animal studies, for example, and in the crime statistics men were more likely to commit filicide, especially after victims were older than a year.

The final hypothetical motive category pertains mostly to those youngest of victims, "the unwanted child." T
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Contact: David Orenstein
david_orenstein@brown.edu
401-863-1862
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert

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